The federal government has been called on to urgently intervene to save the canned 2026 Commonwealth Games.
The recommendation forms part of a Senate inquiry into Australia’s preparedness to host the Commonwealth, Olympic and Paralympic Games, which tabled its interim report to federal parliament on Thursday.
“The committee recommends that the Australian Government takes on a facilitation and coordination role in order to salvage the 2026 Commonwealth Games being held in Australia,” the report reads.
The report calls on government to establish an intergovernmental forum by the end of 2023 to bring together representatives from federal, state and local government, business associations and community groups, to examine options to salvage the 2026 Games.
Failing this, the inquiry recommends that the federal government develops a policy to “address the missed opportunities and impacts from the cancellation of Victoria 2026”.
Plans for the 2026 games to be held in regional Victoria were scrapped in July after Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews revealed estimated costs had blown out to nearly $7bn.
The controversial decision saw Victoria’s government pay out Commonwealth Games bodies $380m in compensation after canning the event.
The inquiry also recommends that the federal government develop new guidelines for future major sporting events which make Commonwealth support conditional on state and territory governments notifying any cancellation well in advance.
Earlier this month, the inquiry heard from Australian Commonwealth Games Association chief executive Craig Phillips who said the organisation was open to having a “scaled-back” event in 2027.
“Even some of the smaller cities around the country have that capability of certainly contributing to a game. We have to look at all possible models – a single-city games, a shared hosting arrangement,” Mr Philips said.
Mr Philips conceded that the peak sporting body did not have any plans “ready on the go” if a new city were to step in.
“We don’t want to rush to a no, we want to make sure we are ready before we start to have conversations with the government, we have to make sure our case is right and where it is right now it’s not right,” Mr Philips added.
“We are probably moving into early next year to actually have the final solution in place.”
But first ministers across the country, including Queensland’s Annastacia Palaszczuk, NSW’s Chris Minns, SA’s Peter Malinauskas, WA’s Roger Cook and Tasmania’s Jeremy Rockliff, have all ruled out hosting the quadrennial event.
Gold Coast mayor Tom Tate submitted a proposal to host the games after hosting in 2018, despite Ms Palaszczuk’s rejection.
In his proposal, Mr Tate clarified that only existing infrastructure would be used to put on the games including the existing accommodation for the athletes village.
“I’m not asking for a yes, I’m just asking for the opportunity to table the proposal, I’m confident the proposal will convince them to get it over the line,” he said.
More to come.