Alberta to explore 2030 Commonwealth Games for Canada after Hamilton Centennial bid stumbles

A group representing Calgary, Edmonton and the Tsuut’ina Nation from the Canadian Province of Alberta has come up with plans to study a bid to host the 2030 Commonwealth Games. The potential bid, supported by the Commonwealth Sport Canada (CSC), replaces a years-long effort by Hamilton, Ontario to stage the centennial edition of the Games in its inaugural city. Those plans were called off last month when organizers missed a deadline to secure necessary provincial government funding.

Calgary last hosted the Olympic Winter Games in 1988
Calgary hosted the Olympic Winter Games in 1988

On Wednesday the CSC officially announced Alberta 2030 as Canada’s ‘preferred candidate’, knocking Hamilton off of the top of podium. Community builder and Olympic champion rower Roger Jackson said the plans have been in the works for four years.

“We’re excited to enter a new phase of bid exploration,” he said as his bid seizes the opportunity to emerge from Hamilton’s shadow.

He said his team, along with government partners, First Nations and their communities will work several months before making a final decision whether to pursue a bid, likely in August.

No economic numbers were released but Jackson pointed to 1.5 billion global viewers as an opportunity to showcase Alberta to the world. He said the Games will be an opportunity to build new sports facilities and renovate existing venues in a number of communities across Calgary, Edmonton, Bow Valley and First Nations lands.

Alberta’s Minister of Culture Jason Luan said his government is behind plans and has pledged CAD $2 million (USD $1.45 million) towards the exploration process. The City of Edmonton will spend CAD $1 million (USD $725,000) on the effort.

The CGF has planned to elect its 2030 host in November this year, leaving little time for an international phase if Alberta decides to move forward. Commonwealth Sport Canada President Claire Carver-Dias said “the CGF hasn’t disclosed if there is an expression of interest from other nations” to submit a bid for the event.

Edmonton hosted the quadrennial event in 1978, and bid again to host in 2022 before withdrawing due to financial concerns related to deflated oil prices across the globe. A possible 2026 bid fizzled out early when the city looked towards hosting FIFA World Cup matches instead – a goal that subsequently failed.

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Last year then Culture Minister Ron Orr hinted that a group in Calgary was looking at future bidding opportunities including the 2030 Winter Olympics, capitalizing on the failure of a bid by Vancouver that ended due to lack of provincial funding. Calgary’s most recent major multi-sport bid ended when plebiscite voters upended a run a the 2026 Winter Olympics.

When asked, Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek told that Alberta 2030 is different then the previous failure.

“This bid is anchored in a partnership between different municipalities rather than just a single city,” she said adding “the fact that this is being community led right at the beginning is a significant departure from what we saw with the Olympic bid.”

But the Mayor couldn’t rule out another public vote, explaining ” I don’t know where things are going to land through the exploration so I’m not sure yet whether it will require a plebiscite. We are in very early days and I’m very hopeful that people will see the value of this type of investment.”

Jackson doesn’t expect a vote, explaining “we are not planning on having a plebiscite nor have any of our government partners requested one.”

“We will have several months of community engagement. The decision on whether to go forward or not will be a decision by city councils and the provincial cabinet and ultimately by the Government of Canada who will be very much a part of all of this.”

Hamilton first formulated plans to host the 2030 Games years ago as business leader and bid committee member PJ Mercanti anticipated the upcoming 100th anniversary of the British Empire Games that were launched in his city and later became the Commonwealth Games. When the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) struggled to find a host for the 2026 edition, the city pivoted to an earlier bid where it was given an exclusive international opportunity by the organization. At that time the necessary government funding could not be secured amid the ongoing COVID-19 health and economic crisis and a potential conflict with FIFA World Cup matches set to be staged that year in nearby Toronto.

The city remained CSC’s preferred bid and was the unofficial frontrunner for 2030 with few other options available to the CGF.

The CGF later negotiated terms with the state of Victoria in Australia to host the 2026 event while Hamilton focused on the centennial edition that was estimated to cost CAD $1 billion (USD $725 million) split between the public and private sector. CSC set a February 13, 2023 deadline for Hamilton to secure provincial funding, but organizers and the province claim there wasn’t sufficient time to arrive at an agreement. Despite months of back and forth discussions, the bid couldn’t deliver all of the necessary information on time.

Immediately the CSC stripped Hamilton of its ‘preferred candidate’ status and began to look elsewhere, finding the group from Alberta who had already been preparing.

Hamilton officials say they and the province remain open to working with CSC on a bid should other options not materialize and additional time is allowed to secure funding. In the meantime, the bid will go in hiatus.

A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. Robert Livingstone is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians.

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