Coronavirus crumples plans for Hamilton 2026 Commonwealth Games, city looks at 2030 instead

Hamilton last week abandoned its exclusive window to agree to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games after it failed to get provincial government commitment to support the project.  Instead organizers will revert back to original plans to bid for the 2030 edition that will mark the 100th anniversary of the original British Empire Games that were inaugurated in the same Canadian city.

Artist rendering of Tim Hortons Field, proposed venue for the Hamilton 2026 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremonies

Artist rendering of Tim Hortons Field, proposed venue for the Hamilton 2026 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremonies (Hamilton 2026 Image)

Social media accounts representing Hamilton’s bids that were first represented as “Hamilton 100” then “Hamilton 2026” have been deleted, along with the organization’s website.

Months-long multi-party negotiations among Commonwealth Sport Canada (CSC), the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) and the Province of Ontario apparently failed to secure the necessary support from the government partner.  Ontario is in the midst of a brutal third wave of the Coronavirus pandemic that has led to a six-week long province-wide lockdown with stay-at-home orders as variant cases surge and overload hospital capacities.

“No doubt the the second wave and now more recent third wave of the pandemic kind of got in the way of a lot of the momentum that was being built and affected the efficiency and speed of some Government responses,” bid president PJ Mercanti told Global News.

The associated economic uncertainty due to the pandemic has also been a concern as the provincial budget released by the Conservative government last month revealed a deep deficit that is expected to last a decade.

Organizers positioned a potential 2026 Games as post-pandemic economic recovery strategy that could be a scaled-down version delivered at low cost while maintaining many of the economic upsides.

But last year provincial representatives said their focus would instead be on staging the FIFA World Cup scheduled for Canada, the United States and Mexico with matches expected to be contested in nearby capital Toronto.  Government officials further conveyed that they would be open to looking at supporting the event in 2027, a move that would ignore the structured international sport calendar and the strict four year increments of the Commonwealth Games.

Bid Chair Lou Frapporti told the Hamilton Spectator “we had been asked to pivot (to a possible 2027 Games) and worked hard on it, but the process has been aborted.

“Having deliberated on it, we are not interested in attempting to pivot to 2027 and resolve to focus back on, and win, 2030.”

Hamilton’s original target was for 2030 until the CGF offered the city exclusive bidding rights to the 2026 event after the deadline to award the earlier Games had passed without serious interest from other Commonwealth countries.  Government approvals for the 2030 bid were already in place and are expected to remain so for the pivot back to original plans.

“I’m disappointed we couldn’t get 2026 delivered but having said that, I’m excited,” Frapporti said.

“We are now back to a full centenary Games and we can do it to the nines.  We have enough time.”

Frapporti said a revised 2030 bid will be ready by the end of this year, and it will be a more robust and costly proposal than what was planned for 2026.  The CGF has no set schedule for awarding the Games.

Hamilton’s step back will be challenging for the CGF that now must find a viable host city on short notice while a pandemic continues to ravage world economies.  There has been sporadic interest from Australia, and Sri Lanka has also discussed the possibility of hosting.

Earlier this year another Canadian city, Victoria, began to develop plans to step in should Hamilton’s ambitions not pan out.  The British Columbia capital that already hosted the Games in 1994 previously failed to get government backing for a 2022 bid.  But if it were to move forward, it could throw a wrench into Hamilton’s 2030 plans as it would be less likely Canada would be awarded the Games back-to-back.

But if the CGF is desperate to lock in the Games during this uncertain decade, perhaps a double-award to Victoria and Hamilton could be negotiated with CSC.

“The CGF continues to work closely with Commonwealth Sport Canada (CSC) with a view to bringing the Commonwealth Games to the country in the future,” a CGF statement explained.

“Positive dialogue is ongoing regarding Victoria’s interest in hosting the 2026 Games, while we were pleased to note the continued aspiration of Hamilton to host the 2030 edition of the event.

“Beyond Canada, the CGF remains in discussions with multiple CGAs and cities interested in the 2026 and 2030 Commonwealth Games.”

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