South Australia drops plans for Adelaide Commonwealth Games bid

David Palmer and Zac Alexander of Australia celebrate the Men's Doubles Gold Medal in Squash at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Commonwealth Games Australia has today (Thursday) expressed its disappointment after the South Australian Government decided to drop a proposed Adelaide-led bid for the 2026 Commonwealth Games amid concerns over the cost of staging the multi-sport event.

A feasibility study into a bid was launched in March, but independent analysis of the economics of staging the Games in Adelaide put the total cost at around Aus$3.5bn (€2.1bn/$2.4bn) while the economic benefit was only projected to be around Aus$1.2bn.

The state government today said it would not progress with a bid due to the lack of key sporting infrastructure needed, along with the advice which revealed the event would not provide an economic benefit for the South Australian economy.

The Marshall Liberal Government has consistently said it would not progress with a bid which did not provide a benefit to taxpayers and today stated it will instead push forward with the State Sporting Infrastructure Plan, which will identify key investment areas needed for South Australian facilities.

Minister for Recreation, Sport and Racing, Corey Wingard, said the government would only commit to a high-class Commonwealth Games, which would promote a positive legacy for the state’s tourism and trade future. “We have always said there was a mountain of work that needed to be done to get SA ready for the type of games we would want to hold by 2026,” Wingard said.

“Although we won’t be bidding for 2026, we have embarked on the State Sporting Infrastructure Plan which will provide the path forward to ensuring we have the best facilities to attract big events to the state in the future.

“Unfortunately, the cost to the taxpayer was too high to bring the Games to South Australia by 2026, but we remain open to potential bids in 2030 and 2034 as key initiatives from the State Sporting Infrastructure Plan are rolled out.”

In June, a decision to award a host city for the 2026 Commonwealth Games, expected to be announced earlier this month at the Commonwealth Games Federation’s (CGF) general assembly in Kigali, was postponed to next year with the CGF stating “positive dialogue” was continuing between the Federation and potential host cities.

Commonwealth Games Australia chief executive Craig Phillips today said that Adelaide had a very strong case for the 2026 Games, adding that every indication was that a bid would have had a high chance of success.

Phillips continued: “We respect and accept the decision of the South Australian Government not to proceed with their bid for the 2026 Commonwealth Games.  We are disappointed, however, that we were not afforded the opportunity to address the concerns of some Cabinet members.

“Adelaide presented a very compelling option as a Games host. It’s the perfect location and much of the facilities and infrastructure required to host the Games are already in place.

“While we have not seen the Deloitte Report into the Games costs, we are disappointed that it purportedly included a range of infrastructure projects, including a proposed city railyards multipurpose arena, that are not directly related to Games expenditure. This project would have enhanced the Games offering but the investment required to build this infrastructure for future use should be the subject of a separate business case and not seen as a Games cost.

“Not proceeding with the bid may put this project in jeopardy and that would be a lost opportunity for South Australians.  We are encouraged that the Government is proceeding with its sports infrastructure plan which will benefit sport in South Australia and enhance Adelaide’s offering as a potential Games host.”

The CGF has introduced a new model of Games delivery for 2022 and beyond to reduce the cost of the 12-day international sporting event. Birmingham 2022 is already benefiting from this new delivery model for the next edition of the event in the English city.

“We will continue working with the states and cities interested in hosting the Games in Australia and to this end we are encouraged that the South Australian Government is interested in considering the possibility of hosting in 2030 or 2034,” Phillips said.

“Commonwealth Games Australia wants to see the Games return to Australia, and as we witnessed most recently in both Melbourne (2006) and the Gold Coast (2018), the Games provide a great legacy for communities that host the Games. Having a home Games is also important for our athletes and our member sports as it drives a significant increase in interest and awareness for our sports and athletes.”