Hamilton pivots to bid for 2026 Commonwealth Games following CGF encouragement

Artist rendering for Glasgow's bid to host the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Hamilton looks likely to table a bid for the 2026 Commonwealth Games after the Commonwealth Games Federation encouraged it to bring its candidacy forward.

The city in the Canadian province of Ontario had originally planned to try for the 2030 games to celebrate the centenary of its hosting of the inaugural edition of the event in 1930 – then called the British Empire Games.

But the CGF, and then Commonwealth Sport Canada, requested it consider a 2026 bid by the end of May, reassuring it that it is unlikely to be challenged for the earlier event.

In response, the bid corporation has rebranded from Hamilton 100 to the Hamilton 2026 Commonwealth Game Bid Corporation.

Bid spokesperson Louis Frapporti told Canadian press that the earlier games would help the city to stage an economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We’re looking at a landscape of incredible economic suffering and looking ahead as business people to what we know will be the case,” he said.

“This presents, in a bizarrely serendipitous way, an immediate path to economic revival and resurgence.”

The city is reported to be considering a scaled-down proposal for the earlier event with an estimated cost of $1bn (€920m) to stage the games – as opposed to the $1.5bn projected for the 2020 event. The public contribution for the latter bid was slated to be between $250m and $375m.

“We’ve worked to reduce what we expect to be the city’s investment materially,” Frapporti said.

“We are regionalizing some of the infrastructure. We will be partnering with the City of Toronto, the Niagara peninsula, [and the town of] Milton in providing some of the venues to take some of the risk and stress off the city of Hamilton in delivering the games.”

The federal, provincial and municipal governments were all reported to be in favour of the 2030 bid and Frapporti indicated the federal government is also likely to support the earlier candidacy.

“The federals have indicated willingness for 2026, but the bid can’t go before city council until the province signs on again,” he said.

“Are we the city that never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity, which is what we’re labelled as, or are we the ambitious city that people like to talk about?”

The city will have to decide whether there are any risks associated with hosting the earlier event, given the likely constraints created by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Preparations for Birmingham 2022 games, including the building of the stadium, Athletes’ Village and aquatics centre were already behind schedule before the lockdown. Birmingham had been ushered in as late replacement after Durban was stripped of the event for failing to establish a local organising committee or make any payments to the CGF.

In opting to bring its bid forward, Hamilton will avoid a likely race for the 2030 games with an Australian city. It is government policy in Australia to secure the games every 12 years and Gold Coast last hosted the event in 2018.

The CGF has sought to encourage more cities to bid for the games by introducing its Transformation 2022 action plan which encourages knowledge exchange between hosts and a more collaborative approach with the CGF.

In 2017 it created CGF Partnerships, a joint venture with the Lagardère Sports agency to provide more commercial support. Under the new model, the CGF acts as a ‘host city partner’, helping cities to refine their delivery models and produce more sustainable events that are better aligned with their own development goals. The joint venture is 60 per- cent owned by CGF with the remaining 40 per cent held by Lagardère.

Last week the CGF published a report claiming that its recent events have offered an economic impact of between £800m ($980m/€897m) and £1.2bn ($1.4bn/€1.3bn) to host cities.

At the time the report was published, CGF chief executive David Grevemberg told SportBusiness: “I think it’s probably more important now than ever that we’ve done a piece of work like this, that shows the value-added benefits that hosting the Commonwealth Games can deliver when done right. What this particular document does is gives the bid team a tool to be able to talk with government and say, ‘look, here are some case studies, here’s some clear testimony and examples of how this proposition can benefit us’.

According to the report, the most recent Commonwealth Games, in Gold Coast, Australia in 2018, delivered an impact of £1.2bn to the local economy, with the biggest boosts being to employment – both before, during and after the event itself – and tourism, which was claimed to have grown by up to a quarter in host cities after the Games.

Manchester, the report claimed, benefited to the tune of £1.1bn from hosting the 2022 games. Increased Commonwealth trade deals and investments were also outlined as having contributed up to £400m to host cities.

Read this: Sport at the service of society | Making the Commonwealth Games relevant for the 21st Century