On paper, the concept of hosting the 2026 Commonwealth Games in several regional hubs across Victoria was a great idea. The five regional centres were to be Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat, Gippsland and Shepparton. All with strong roots and connections with Australia’s sporting history. The increase in tourism would have been great, the global exposure equally beneficial, and the legacy, if done correctly, would have been amazing for future generations.
But in reality, did the Government bite off more than it could chew? By spreading the Games across these five regional hubs, in a post-COVID affected market and with less than four years to deliver ever practical?
What do we know about these failed Games?
- Durban (South Africa) initially won the rights to host the 2022 Games but were stripped of the rights due to financial concerns.
- Birmingham (England) moved their hosting rights from 2026 to 2022 and hosted the Games for a budgeted cost of AUD1.5 billion.
- Victoria were awarded the rights to host the Games in April 2022.
- Less than 16 months later, the Victorian government cancelled the Games due to forecasted costs almost trebling the original budgeted costs (from AUD 3 billion to a reported AUD 6 – 7 billion).
- During this period of time, a significant amount of planning, investigation, commitments and, in some cases, life-changing decisions had been made, such as people moving to regions for new jobs. Ultimately a lot of money has been spent to date.
So where did it all go wrong for the Victorian 2026 Games?
Was the initial budget estimates that wrong? Was the planning process, which was rushed, poorly executed and some critical errors made? Or has the construction industry ridden the post-COVID increased prices for too long, ultimately signing the death warrant for the Games? Or was it a combination of many things? Until the Victorian Government provides a full outline of where it all went wrong, we will never fully know.
Having been involved in auditing many of the Fields of Plays proposed to be used across the different regions for the Games, it was clear that the legacy piece for these Games would have been highly beneficial for these local communities. Many venues we audited were nearing their end of design life and required major reconstruction works. Having been involved in a couple of Games now, while the success is often linked to the Games themselves, I’m a firm believe the true measurement of success is post-Games with the successful utilisation of the legacy infrastructure.
Unfortunately, history is scarred by examples of Games, both the Olympics and Commonwealth, with failed legacy outcomes. There has been a common theme across these events; large government investments in large-scale venues that ultimately were too large for the post-Games users became large white elephants. From a Field of Play perspective, the legacy elements of the Victorian Games appear to have been well planned for.
Thankfully the planned Field of Play legacy elements for the Games appear to still be going ahead, which I think will prove to be a successful outcome for the local communities.
A consolation for not hosting the Games, yes, but better than losing the Games and also keeping the aging assets as they currently stand.
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