The Victorian government has been accused of inflating the estimated cost of hosting the 2026 Commonwealth Games and ignoring options to justify cancelling the global sports event.
Premier Daniel Andrews pulled the pin on hosting the Games in Victoria after updated estimates put the cost at up to $7 billion.
“Frankly, $6 billion to $7 billion for a 12-day sporting event, we are not doing that,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
“That does not represent value for money, that is all costs and no benefit.”
The state budget last year outlined $2.6b would be spent preparing for the event across regional Victoria.
Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat, Shepparton and Gippsland were named as host centres and the Melbourne Cricket Ground as the opening ceremony venue.
Mr Andrews said the government considered moving the Games to Melbourne, holding fewer sports and having fewer regional hubs, but all options were too expensive.
“None of those options stack up,” he said.
Treasurer Tim Pallas had been seeking a dollar-for-dollar contribution of $1.3b from the Commonwealth but no money was set aside in the May federal budget.
Mr Andrews said even if the federal government did come to the party, the Games were not worth the money.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the decision to pull out was one for the Victorian government.
The Andrews government held meetings with Commonwealth Games leadership in London on Monday night Australian time, with organisers informed the 2026 contract would be terminated.
The Commonwealth Games Federation said the government did not discuss solutions with it before reaching the decision.
Commonwealth Games Australia chief executive Craig Phillips said the forecast cost overruns, in his view, were a “gross exaggeration” and the government didn’t seriously consider other options.
“The Victorian government ignored recommendations to move events to purpose-built stadiums in Melbourne and remained wedded to temporary expensive venues in regional Victoria,” he told reporters.
Mr Phillips said the decision will damage Melbourne’s global reputation as the sporting capital of Australia.
“I would be very careful if I was an international sporting body coming in and doing business in this state in the future,” he said.
The cost of breaking the Games contract is yet to be settled but Mr Andrews pledged it would be revealed at a later date.
He suggested contracts for major upgrades to sports venues and housing have not been signed, with minimal costs incurred to date.
While Victoria will no longer host the Games, some infrastructure projects will still go ahead.
There will be $1b spent on more than 1300 new social and affordable housing homes across regional Victoria and $150 million on tourism and events
Planned upgrades to regional sporting facilities are also set to go ahead.
About 100 people based in Geelong were employed to co-ordinate the Games, with some expected to lose their jobs and others redistributed to other government roles.
Regional Victoria was the only bidder for the Games after South African city Durban lost the 2022 event and the original 2026 host Birmingham stepped in to fill the void.
Victoria’s opposition leader John Pesutto and Nationals leader Peter Walsh branded the scrapping a “massive humiliation” for the state.
“The cancellation of the Commonwealth Games is hugely damaging to Victoria’s reputation as a global events leader,” they said in a joint statement.
(Australian Associated Press)