The legacy of Victoria’s Commonwealth Games that never was will not be the one dreamt up in the marketing department which had just launched its 1000 day countdown to the opening.
Premier Daniel Andrews said axing the Comm Games was not a hard decision which begs the question whether accepting the invitation to host the Games in 2022 was taken too lightly.
Andrews blamed a massive cost blow out to more than $6 billion – some three times greater than the original estimation – a claim dismissed by an obviously frustrated Comm Games organising committee.
Commonwealth Games Australia head Craig Phillips described the figure as “grossly exaggerated” in a press conference yesterday where he could barely contain his anger at the sudden announcement.
“I would be very careful if I was an international sporting body, coming and doing business in this state in the future,” Phillips said.
“I don’t think I’ve had many days in my career that would rank with this one, in terms of the level of disappointment.”
He may have a point as both the original and latest cost estimates were conducted by the same consulting firm – EY.
So where do the extra costs come from? This is where politics and sport collide with often unexpected consequences. It should be noted that the decision to host the Comm Games, a Regional Games no less, was made shortly before a state election.
With Melbourne off the cards, that meant the host hubs of Ballarat, Bendigo, Shepparton, Gippsland and Geelong would shoulder the heavy lifting with some rather major upgrades to the existing sporting infrastructure including a velodrome at the Bendigo Showground.
Andrews blamed the cost blowout not on infrastructure but rather the logistic services and necessary to host a multi-hub event including security and transport. But an extra $4 billion for contractors seems a stretch, adding some credence to Phillips’ claim of exaggerated cost overruns.
“Beyond this, the Victorian Government wilfully ignored recommendations to move events to purpose-built stadiums in Melbourne,” he said.
In a statement from London, the Commonwealth Sport Movement said the Victorian government had ignored advice to limit the number of sports and made expensive venue changes, putting the blame squarely on the state’s shoulders.
The debacle is yet from resolved, with lawyers now tasked with negotiating the break-up fee – a figure which some have speculated could reach $1 billion.
The opposition has called on the Auditor-General to launch an “urgent investigation” to reveal how much the state’s taxpayers will have to fork out for a Games that never was.
“To think that Labor may have torched more than one billion dollars is a further indictment on its complete inability to manage money at a time when Victorians are facing unprecedented cost of living pressures and essential services are being increasingly stretched,” said Opposition leader John Pesutto.