Victoria’s regional councils say they are shocked and disappointed in the state government’s decision to cancel the 2026 Commonwealth Games.
The state government had pitched a multi-city model for the games, with five regional centres to host 20 sports and 9 paralympic sports from March 17 to 29, 2026.
But on Tuesday Premier Daniel Andrews announced the Games would no longer be held in Victoria, saying costs had blown out from $2.6 billion to potentially more than $7 billion.
In a sweetner to the affected regional centres, he promised a $2 billion package for sports infrastructure, tourism and regional housing.
Bendigo Mayor Andrea Metcalf said the announcement had come out of the blue.
“We were informed just before the announcement was made,” she told a media conference.
“Its come through as a shock and a bit of disappointment this morning when we learnt about it.”
Cr Metcalf said there was some good news in the $2 billion funding package, but said the City, which would have hosted the netball competition, would still miss out on the opportunity to host international sport, as well as global exposure and tourism opportunities.
Acting CEO Andrew Cooney said the City been working on plans for the Games ever since there was a chance they might be coming to regional Victoria.
“There’s an element of shock and disappointment, I’ll be honest about that,” he told reporters.
Price tag to high
Premier Andrews said with a $7 billion price tag, there was no way the Commonwealth Games offered value for money.
“Six billion to seven billion dollars is well and truly too much for a 12 day sporting event,” he told reporters. “The games will not proceed in Victoria in 2026”.
Instead, he said the government would invest the money put aside for the Games in a regional package including new and upgraded sports facilities, a $150 million regional tourism and events fund, and a $1 billion regional housing fund to deliver around 13,000 new homes.
Shepparton will get upgraded BMX facilities and the Bendigo Bowls Club and the Bendigo Stadium will be expanded. Ballarat’s Eureka Stadium will be expanded, along with new mountain bike trails and sports centre upgrades.
There will be upgrades to the Morwell Gun Club and Gippsland Sports and Entertainment Park pitches and pavilions.
Geelong will gain an aquatic centre and new hard court facilities and hockey upgrades in Torquay.
Greater Geelong Mayor Trent Sullivan said it was a very disappointing result.
“Councils entered into this arrangement with the State Government in good faith, and have invested time, resources and funds to help deliver a successful Games,” he said.
“This is a very disappointing result, as Geelong and the other regional host cities had been promised a huge amount of tourism, economic, social, and sporting benefits would flow from hosting the Games.”
More than 7500 jobs were expected to be created before, during and after the Games, he said, and more than 1200 goods and services procurement opportunities were also on the agenda.
“The legacy outcomes that the Games were to deliver to the Geelong community were vital in addressing our region’s growing need for social and affordable housing, and our sporting facilities,” he said.
“We welcome the Government’s announcement that this vital infrastructure will still be prioritised, and we’re eagerly awaiting the details of exactly what they will fund and deliver.”
Regional Cities Victoria, comprising mayors and CEOs of the ten largest cities in regional Victoria, said it was a major loss for regional cities.
“This is a disappointing day for the 1.5 million people – a quarter of all Victorians – who call regional Victoria home and had excitedly welcomed the Commonwealth Games, encouraged by the long term value it promised for their communities,” RCV said.
Cost blowout a ‘gross exaggeration’
Commonwealth Games Australia CEO Craig Phillips said the announcement was “beyond disappointing.”
He said the budgetary implications announced by the premier had not been seen or discussed with the Commonwealth Games Federation 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.Craig Phillips
“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,” he said.
Mr Phillips said CGA would welcome the opportunity to review the financial analysis prepared independently of those who have been involved at the coal face of planning and delivery.
The Victorian government had jeopardised Melbourne and Victoria’s standing as a sporting capital of the world, he added
Discussions with Commonwealth Games Authorities, including the cost of breaking the contract, were ongoing, Mr Andrews said.
He said the government, senior officials and “a number of” external consultants contributed to original cost estimates, but did not provide specific details of which individuals or consultants were involved.
According to media reports, one of the consultants involved was Ernst & Young.
An EY spokesman told Government News the company didn’t comment on client matters but said “EY did not provide the advice that the cost of the games would top $6.2 billion”.
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