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Shock and disappointment: Reactions to the cancellation of Victoria’s Commonwealth Games

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Shock and disappointment: Reactions to the cancellation of Victoria’s Commonwealth Games
There’s been an interesting mix of reactions to yesterday’s announcement that the Commonwealth Games won’t go ahead in Victoria in 2026.

Australia’s Commonwealth Games organisation and the overall governing body for the event internationally, the Commonwealth Games Federation, both expressed dismay at the state government’s decision.

CEO of Commonwealth Games Australia, Craig Phillips AM, said the decision was “beyond disappointing”.

“It’s a comprehensive let down for the athletes, the excited host communities, First Nations Australians who were at the heart of the Games, and the millions of fans that would have embraced a sixth home Games in Australia,” he said.

“The detailed budgetary implications announced today have not been sighted or discussed with the CGF or CGA ahead of being notified of the Government’s decision.

“The stated costs overrun, in our opinion, are a gross exaggeration and not reflective of the operational costs presented to the Victoria 2026 Organising Committee board as recently as June.

“Beyond this, the Victorian Government wilfully ignored recommendations to move events to purpose-built stadia in Melbourne and in fact remained wedded to proceeding with expensive temporary venues in regional Victoria.”

Phillips also disputed Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews assertion that Victoria stepped in as host of the Games at the last minute.

“The Victorian Government, however, has jeopardised Melbourne and Victoria’s standing as a sporting capital of the world,” said Phillips.

In a statement, the Commonwealth Games Federation, hinted at surprise as to the sudden cancellation.

“We are disappointed that we were only given eight hours’ notice and that no consideration was given to discussing the situation to jointly find solutions prior to this decision being reached by the Government,” the statement said.

“The numbers quoted to us today of $6 billion are 50 per cent more than those advised to the Organising Committee board at its meeting in June.

“These figures are attributed to price escalation primarily due to the unique regional delivery model that Victoria chose for these Games, and in particular relate to village and venue builds and transport infrastructure.

“Since awarding Victoria the Games, the Government has made decisions to include more sports and an additional regional hub, and changed plans for venues, all of which have added considerable expense, often against the advice of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) and Commonwealth Games Australia (CGA).

“Up until this point, the Government had advised that sufficient funding was available to deliver the Victoria 2026 Commonwealth Games.

“We are taking advice on the options available to us and remain committed to finding a solution for the Games in 2026 that is in the best interest of our athletes and the wider Commonwealth Sport Movement.”

Meanwhile the Victorian Tourism Industry Council (VTIC) CEO, Felicia Mariani, said the cancellation was not a surprise.

“With the plans to host these Games in five regions across the state, this project faced many challenges from the outset. From the perspective of housing spectators and athletes, to managing the logistics and transport arrangements to move people across the state, the hurdles to overcome in the delivering this approach have been highly ambitious, particularly considering the tight timelines to March 2026,” she said.

“While the initial budget of $2.6 billion to host the Games was allocated, it became clear  that building infrastructure in five regional locations was a monumental challenge that would cost far more than initially predicted. The host regions will suffer, not just from the visitors they expected to welcome in this period, but also the global exposure they expected to receive.

“The biggest risk right now for Victoria will be in managing the reputational fallout as a destination for hosting major international events. Pulling the pin at such a crucial time on a major event like this will create concern that needs to be managed carefully,” said Mariani.

VTIC welcomed the $2 billion regional support package that the state government has announced in lieu of holding the Games.

After the cancellation was announced yesterday morning, there was speculation about whether another Australian state might take on hosting duties, however, around the nation, the answers have been unequivocal.

In a Tweet, NSW Premier Chris Minns said he’d had a lot of people ask him whether the state would step in to host the event.

Perth’s mayor Basil Zempilas wanted Western Australia to put itself forward, suggesting that the state would tell the Commonwealth Games Federation “how much we will pay”. However new state premier Roger Cook, quickly shut the idea down.

“We won’t be making a bid for the Commonwealth Games. Our analysis was consistent with the Victorian Government analysis, that this would cost a significant amount of money and provide very little return on that investment, providing a highly expensive sugar hit.”

Meanwhile Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on radio this morning that he was shocked by the decision.

“We did get a very short heads up that the announcement was coming but obviously, it’s not something that we were anticipating given that it’s been in the wind for some time,” said the Prime Minister.

Meanwhile across the Tasman, the mayor of Christchurch has shown interest in New Zealand’s second largest city hosting the event in 2026.

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