A late-night call to Victorian government lawyers has quietly killed the Commonwealth Games – dooming taxpayers to another huge compensation payout.
Based on past estimates, Victorians will lose no less than $1 billion to Premier Daniel Andrews’ sudden decision to dump the 2026 event.
The original call to cancel the Games reportedly came shortly after 2 a.m. when state government lawyers told members of the Commonwealth Games Federation in London that Victoria was canceling its contract.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews delivered the charm at a news conference in Melbourne on Tuesday.
Melbourne hosted the Commonwealth Games in 2006
Daniel Andrews remains bitter about the decision to dump the Games
Almost a decade ago, the Queensland government investigated the cost of canceling the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast and determined it to be more than $1 billion.
The figure was revealed in 2018 estimates due to skyrocketing inflation in Victoria and limited time for organizers to find replacement hosts.
Commonwealth Games Australia chief executive Craig Phillips reportedly had no idea of the event being postponed until six hours after being informed in London.
The gobsmacked chief was advised by a senior bureaucrat in the state that a dramatic blow to forecast spending forced the government, The Age reported.
Mr Andrews made the announcement on Tuesday, declaring his decision ‘easy’ given the state’s dire financial woes following its record Covid-19 lockdown.
‘What has become clear is that the cost of hosting these games is not the $2.6 billion that was allocated, it is at least $6 billion or $7 billion,’ he said.
Regional Victoria was awarded the right to host the 2026 event last year after none of the Commonwealth Games Federation’s 70 nations offered to host.
The reason behind the decision to push is the state’s finance crisis, with Victoria’s debt forecast to hit $135.4 billion in 2024, rising to $171.4 billion by 2026-27.
However, Mr Andrews refused to say how the government’s spending on the Commonwealth Games had ballooned to more than $4 billion and what it would cost taxpayers to cancel the event.
On Wednesday, the premier came under attack from a furious media pack, who grilled him about the blowout.
Daniel Andrews was bombarded with questions during a press conference Wednesday
Mr Andrews was asked more than 10 times what taxpayers could expect to pay for the government’s decision to cancel the Games.
‘We are currently discussing that issue and I am not going to cut it,’ he said.
‘I’m not getting into arguments today or ever. We are instead focused on ongoing friendly and productive discussions in London.’
The Prime Minister promised to reveal the details of what went wrong once the talks are over.
‘All relevant information will be given to you,’ he said.
‘I’m happy to get as much information out there as possible.’
The decision to cancel the Games was met with outrage by the Victorian public.
Former Victorian Minister Martin Pakula, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, Commonwealth Games Federation President Dame Louise Martin, Regional Development Minister Mary-Anne-Thomas and MP Michaela Settle pose for a photo with athletes and children during a press conference in Ballara on April 12, 2022. .
Team Australia celebrates victory during the netball gold medal match between Team Jamaica and Team Australia on day 10 of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games
Melbourne’s 2021 cold weather began to thaw when talk of the Games coming to Melbourne began to circulate.
Melburnians emerged from 262 growing days of lockdown as senior figures in Victoria – the state government’s main events and tourism promotion body – began exploring Victoria’s pitch for the Games.
The plan was said to focus on country Victoria to win over regional voters and help introduce international tourists to the rest of the state.
The Games will provide much-needed housing and sports infrastructure for desperate regional communities.
The initial, tentative price tag was $1.3 billion – just below the Gold Coast 2018 cost.
The figure is said to be $2.65 billion behind the Commonwealth Games cheering Australia.
Mr Andrews proudly announced to Games Victorians that the state had secured the deal.
“We are the sports capital of our nation,” he said in February 2022.
‘We have what it takes to make an event like this a great success for us and everyone across the Commonwealth … our vision for this is unlike any other Games.
‘It will be great for regional Victoria, for the state, for jobs, for investment, for confidence and just to reassert – if there’s any question in anyone’s mind – that we are the capital of major events, the capital of sport.’
On Wednesday, Mr Andrews refused to apologize to a nation of young athletes who planned to compete in the Games on home turf.
‘You’re asking me to apologize for not running the games and I’m not doing that,’ he said.
‘I understand that the officials are disappointed, that the athletes are disappointed but we would all be pretty disappointed, I think, if we just went ahead and invested billions and billions of dollars over the budget.’
‘The Government reserves the right for Victorians to make their own decisions.’
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