Hamilton 2026 Commonwealth Games bid chair: “It’s time to be flexible”

While the Chair of Hamilton’s 2026 Commonwealth Games bid Lou Frapporti looks for certainty on the Province of Ontario’s position moving forward,  he also seeks flexibility from all parties involved in the site selection process.

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)

“Things are on hold, from our perspective, pending a clear and more formal declaration to us from the Province as to their appetite to go forward at all,” Frapporti said on the Scott Radley Show Tuesday, just one day before Hamilton City Council officially received the bid’s letter explaining that the project is in ‘abeyance’.

“Some certainty at this point is in everyone’s interest.

“We resolved, after a few conversations that we thought it best that Province take it in and formally make a decision.  If it was to say ‘no’ then say ‘no’ and we can all move on.”

Last year the Canadian city worked directly with the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) under the pretense that Hamilton had ‘first and sole consideration’ to host the Games in 2026 if it were willing to pivot form its original 2030 campaign.  Hamilton retargeted its bid to the earlier year but potential conflicts with Ontario’s involvement in hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2026 prevented a quick buy-in from the province.

Then “…things got worse, the province couldn’t devote the time,” Frapporti said of the emerging coronavirus pandemic and economic crisis across Ontario and the world.

“We remain optimistic but clearly what is going on has changed the complexion of things.

Hamilton expects Commonwealth Games bid decision “imminently”

“Under these circumstances it’s a great deal to ask and we are having to be realistic about the capacity of government to do that type of research.”

Meanwhile the CGF has opened talks with interested groups in Australia and Sri Lanka, and Frapporti disclosed Tuesday that Victoria in British Columbia has expressed interest in hosting but pandemic-related shutdowns there are also causing uncertainty.

But Frapporti told listeners that even if it’s a ‘no’ from the province now, events in the world over the past year have shown that things could change quickly in the future.

He said “we’re seeing so many changes in multi-sport Games [this past year] in terms of event timing and organizations having to pivot on short notice to make immense changes.  But the question on when the [2026 Commonwealth Games] decision must be made is pretty much up in the air.

“We don’t have an answer to that question except to say that in our discussions with the province, the Federation and Commonwealth Sport Canada (CSC), we’re of the view that we could put on an event that makes sense economically in terms of its impact on what I’ll call relatively short notice, so we would have several more months before decisions would need to be made if it came down to that.

“And even if it’s a ‘no’, one of the discussions that we’ve had is in the event there isn’t another host city that steps forward in the next few months and there’s an opportunity to think carefully about this, and folks are prepared to revisit it, I think everybody is open to the conversation.

“Nobody is foreclosing it indefinitely.

“But I think it’s time to be flexible.”

CGF Chief David Grevemberg (CGF Photo)
CGF Chief David Grevemberg (CGF Photo) will step down March 5

This week CGF Chief David Grevemberg announced that on March 5 he will step down from the position he has held since 2014, and a replacement is not expected to be named until this summer.  Grevemberg has worked closely with the bid process and it seems unlikely that a 2026 host city will be named until his successor is found.

That delay might give Hamilton 2026 the time and flexibility it seeks.

The new CEO could also change their strategy on how to move forward with plans for 2026, Grevemberg said in a statement “I feel that now is the right moment to pass the baton.”

“This will give a successor time to support and experience next year’s Games in Birmingham and plan and oversee the next significant phase of the Federation’s history, post-Transformation 2022.”

Otherwise, Frapporti said, other plans are already in play.

“If we’re told ‘no’ around 2026, which would be understandable, disappointing but understandable, we have a 2030 bid that we’ll have to compete with the world around and we’ll be in the business of making sure we win that – however many years from now.”

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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