Hamilton in Canada has been given “first and sole consideration” to become host of the Commonwealth Games in 2026, CEO Brian MacPherson of Commonwealth Sport Canada (CSC) told GamesBids.com Wednesday.
Lacking the emergence of bidders from other nations, the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) has offered Hamilton a short and exclusive window to negotiate the host city contract if the city were to change plans and host the Games four years earlier than targeted.
The Hamilton 100 group has been organizing a bid for 2030, an edition that would mark the 100th anniversary of the inaugural Games held in the same city. But amid the global coronavirus pandemic that has brought international sport to a standstill, the CGF is searching for a 2026 host city to organize with an already shortened timetable. The CGF had hoped to site the 2026 Games last year.
“CGF has given Hamilton a ‘first and sole consideration’ for the next few months to become the host of the 2026 CWGs,” MacPherson told GamesBids.com in an email.
“It’s important to note this first and sole consideration is contingent on Hamilton agreeing to ‘pivot’ their 2030 bid to 2026, and all Parties (CGF, CSC and 3 orders of Canadian governments) negotiating and agreeing to Principle Terms of a Host City Agreement.
“Currently Hamilton is exploring the possibility of pivoting their bid to 2026.”
Last week CSC revealed that a fledgling bid from Calgary to host in 2026 was dismissed after it failed to secure necessary funding from the Province of Alberta and the federal government. Slumping oil prices and economic uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic likely made that a difficult task.
But Hamilton secured cooperation from government partners before the coronavirus landed on Canadian shores, though this agreement applies to 2030. Pivoting to a 2026 Games presents its own challenges.
The provincial and federal government will be facing large deficits amid a possible depressed economy in the coronavirus fallout and would have to agree to the earlier date. Both governments have already partnered to host the FIFA World Cup in 2026 with the United States and Mexico with one of the venues planned for BMO Field in nearby Toronto. That championship could crowd out potential support for an additional event the same summer.
The cost of preparations for the Games, including the necessary infrastructure has been pegged at CDN $1.425 billion (USD $1 billion). The construction of a new stadium, an aquatics centre and the Athletes’ Village would have to be expedited to meet the new timeline, and that could increase capital costs above the estimated $500 million.
But last week Hamilton 100 spokesman Lou Frapporti said hosting the Games four years earlier in 2026 would accelerate infrastructure investments and produce economic and tourism benefits earlier than planned. And by eliminating a formal bid process, there will be additional cost savings.
MacPherson has estimated that Hamilton officials will arrive at a decision by the end of May, but that could change during these uncertain times.
If Hamilton 100 turns down the offer and instead remains focused on the more sentimental 2030 prize, it could be a blow to the CGF that seems to have run out of other options. Birmingham was awarded the 2022 edition of the Games two years ago after Durban was removed as host city when the South African city missed a financial deadline. The CGF has hinted at awarding both the 2026 and 2030 Games simultaneously this year.
Should Hamilton gamble on 2030, the international competition is uncertain. The CGF has claimed that there is interest in hosting the 2030 Games from multiple parties across the Commonwealth, but only a project from Adelaide in Australia was made public months ago before it faded away.