Organizers behind a Hamilton bid to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games have acknowledged that they will miss a Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) September deadline to commit to host the Games with no contest.
Earlier this year the CGF offered the Canadian city an “exclusive opportunity” to bid for the quadrennial event in 2026 if it would pivot from its plans to host the 2030 centennial edition of the original British Empire Games that launched in the same city. City Council had already signed off on those plans that were seen as major sentimental milestone for Hamilton.
Working with a delayed timeline and limited hosting interest amid the coronavirus pandemic, the CGF proposed the offer to Hamilton, and in July set a September deadline for the delivery of a multi-party agreement among government stakeholders.
City councilors are considering the new plans, but their support is split with some clinging to the original nostalgic 2030 concept. In an August 10 meeting with CGF and bid officials, they asked for more details.
In a letter sent Monday to Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger and members of city council to answer those questions, bid chair Lou Frapporti outlined the extent of work to be done and suggested a non-binding letter of support couldn’t be issued by the city before the end of October.
Frapporti wrote “…given the magnitude of the work being undertaken and still required, including the importance of adequate public consultation, we do not expect to return to Council with a proposal and a request for staff assessment until October.”
“We have not asked the [CGF] to extend their grant of exclusivity beyond the end of September in order that we not further complicate their governance process or adversely impact their fiduciary duty to their global associations particularly in light of the fact, confirmed by independent news sources after the August 10th meeting, that other countries are in fact interested in hosting the 2026 Games.”
Just days ago GamesBids.com confirmed that Commonwealth Games Australia (CGA) remains interested in bidding for Games in 2026 or beyond, and in December Indian Olympic Association (IOA) Secretary General Rajeev Mehta told reporters that government officials passed a resolution to bid for the Commonwealth Games.
Frapporti remains confident that the CGF will continue to prioritize Hamilton 2026 as the city works through its process even beyond the deadline. In his letter he referenced a media report citing CGF Chief David Grevemberg explaining that the deadline could be extended if progress was being made when the time expires.
“We are confident that the issuance of a non binding letter of support in principle by the end of October will preserve this opportunity for the City of Hamilton allowing the city to further assess and deliberate upon the opportunity,” Frapporti wrote.
In his letter Frapporti dismissed fears that government commitments around hosting the FIFA World Cup in the same summer might hamper Commonwealth Games efforts.
He wrote “…our initial query of both of the relevant provincial and federal ministries in relation to the 2026 opportunity, no objection or concern was raised by senior levels of government about a conflict with a potential World Cup event in Toronto.”
Yesterday we issued a letter to members of #HamOnt City Council to provide supplementary information on a number of questions asked by members of Council following our presentation on August 10.
— Hamilton2026 (@Hamilton2026CG) August 25, 2020
Frapporti explained that no Commonwealth Games events would be staged in nearby Toronto, and FIFA remains unconcerned about any potential conflict.
He did note that Toronto’s ongoing bid to host the 2026 World Gay Games – that would take place at the same time as the World Cup – is being organized by the same leaders who were involved in the FIFA bid. The 2026 World Gay Games is scheduled to awarded in November 2021.
The original estimate for a 2030 Games in Hamilton was CDN $1.5 billion (USD $1.14) but organizers claim that a scaled-down event for 2026 would trim the price tag significantly. Frapporti said earlier this month that city council would help determine the final budget by weighing legacy needs against capital outlay.
The Commonwealth Games is being positioned by both the CGF and Hamilton 2026 as a mechanism for financial recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, and as an opportunity to leverage federal funds for the construction of affordable housing.
Gold Coast in Australia hosted the most recent Commonwealth Games in 2018 and Birmingham is set to stage the event in 2022.
A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of GamesBids.com 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.