No thanks: SA rules out 2026 Commonwealth Games bid

The state government says it has “no intention” of reviving a bid to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games in Adelaide, after Victoria’s shock decision to axe the event due to a massive cost blowout.

Jul 18, 2023, updated Aug 07, 2023
Adelaide Oval was once pitched as the centrepiece of a 2026 Commonwealth Games  in Adelaide - but successive South Australian governments have now refused to launch a bid. Left photo: supplied; right photo: Davies/PA Wire.

Adelaide Oval was once pitched as the centrepiece of a 2026 Commonwealth Games in Adelaide - but successive South Australian governments have now refused to launch a bid. Left photo: supplied; right photo: Davies/PA Wire.

Victorian Premier Dan Andrews announced at a snap press conference this morning that regional Victoria would no longer host the Games.

Andrews said the cost of the 12-day event scheduled for March 17-29, 2026 had blown out from $2.6 billion to more than $6 billion and that terminating the contract was “not a difficult decision in many respects – it is just quite obvious”.

“Frankly, $6 billion to $7 billion for a 12-day sporting event, we are not doing that – that does not represent value for money,” he said.

“That is all costs and no benefit.”

In South Australia, the former Marshall Government in September 2019 declined to host the 2026 Games for the same reason.

A Deloitte study commissioned by the government found that the total cost of hosting the games in Adelaide could reach $3.5 billion, with the projected long-term economic boost only between $380 million and $1.2 billion.

A Malinauskas Government spokesperson today ruled out reviving plans to host the Games in Adelaide, citing the Deloitte modelling.

“While this decision will be deeply disappointing for athletes and supporters of the Commonwealth Games, the South Australian Government has no intention of stepping in to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games,” the spokesperson said.

“Successive governments, both Liberal and Labor, have considered hosting the games and determined the cost would outweigh the economic benefit.

“The South Australian Government will continue to look to attract major events, but they must stack up and deliver economic benefits that outweigh the cost which has occurred with Gather Round, LIV Golf and the Adelaide 500.”

New South Wales, Western Australia, Tasmania and Queensland also this morning ruled out hosting the 2026 event.

Business SA CEO Andrew Kay backed the state government’s decision not to reapply for the Games.

“As appealing as it would be to take a major sporting event off our Victorian neighbours, the numbers don’t stack up in our benefit,” he said.

“South Australia is having a great run with major events and looks forward to this year’s program growing again in 2024.”

Australian Hotels Association SA branch CEO Anna Moeller also backed the government’s decision, saying it would be “reckless” to bid for the event if the cost benefit-analysis didn’t stack up.

“I suspect there may not be a lot of people putting their hand up for it,” she said.

“It’s not the Olympic Games so you don’t attract the same level of sponsorship… but you still have similar infrastructure costs, so it’s very hard.

“I think we’d probably struggle in the timeframe anyway. It takes a long time to get these things up and running, it takes significant infrastructure.”

SA Transport Minister Tom Koutsantonis said he spoke this morning with Premier Peter Malinauskas, who is on leave, about Victoria’s decision.

Koutsantonis said the Commonwealth Games was “off our agenda”.

“$7 billion to be spent on a sporting event over 12 days does not seem like value for money,” Koutsantonis said at a press conference

“I think South Australian would be horrified to think that the state government might spend that kind of money on a 12-day sporting event.

“We’re focused on LIV Golf, we’re focused on Gather Round, we’re focused on the local sporting events we’re getting here which are energising the city.

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“We’re up for more sporting events but we don’t think Commonwealth Games is the right fit here.”

Koutsantonis said he was “surprised” by the decision but declined to criticise the Victorian Government for pulling out.

“We’re seeing a national contraction. We’re seeing internationally the war in Ukraine is playing out hurting cost of living across the globe,” he said.

“Things are getting tight. The Reserve Bank is turning the screws on interest rates so the economy now needs to make sure that we are triaging where we spend our money appropriately to get the best benefit for our taxpayers.”

In October 2020, Commonwealth Games Australia (CGA) launched a lobbying campaign to push the state government to rethink its opposition to hosting the Games in Adelaide.

The campaign pointed to a study it commissioned from PwC claiming the event would only cost $1.1 billion and generate an “upper band” of $2.5 billion in economic uplift.

But the lobbying effort was flatly rejected by former Liberal Treasurer Rob Lucas, who criticised the quality of the study compared to the government’s feasibility work.

The PwC study pitched using Adelaide Oval as the main arena for the Games, including the opening and closing ceremonies, while also using the Adelaide Convention Centre, Adelaide Entertainment Centre, Hindmarsh Stadium and the SA Athletics Stadium for events.

It said a new athletes’ village would need to be constructed to support the event.

Meanwhile, the Commonwealth Games Federation said it was blindsided by the Victorian Government’s decision to axe the Games.

The international organising body said it received eight hours’ notice that its contract would be terminated and the Victorian government did not discuss solutions with it before reaching the decision.

It said the Victorian government had made the Games more expensive by including more sports and an additional regional hub, often against advice.

“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,” the federation said in a statement.

The cost of breaking the Games contract is yet to be settled but Andrews pledged it would be revealed at a later date.

Swimming Australia’s head coach Rohan Taylor said today he hopes the 2026 Games will be relocated, describing them as crucial in the build-up to Brisbane’s 2032 Olympics.

“It’s disappointing for the Australian public to miss out on having that event which we know is a great opportunity for our athletes to represent their country,” Taylor told AAP.

“I’m disappointed they are not going to get the opportunity to do that … athletes perform in front of home crowds.

“Hopefully we will see what the option that the Commonwealth Games Federation come up with, where it could be hosted.”

-With AAP

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