Hamilton City Councilors expressed dismay Monday that the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) is encouraging the city to bid for the 2026 edition of the Games instead of the originally planned 2030 centennial event in the Canadian city.
Councilors had the opportunity to question CGF CEO David Grevemberg after a presentation during a General Issues Committee meeting that was also attended by Commonwealth Sport Canada (CSC) CEO Brian MacPherson and bid president PJ Mercanti.
“I am still very much married to 2030,” Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger admitted while promising a thorough examination of a possible 2026 pivot.
Earlier this year the CGF offered Hamilton an exclusive chance to bid for the 2026 edition of the Games if the city is willing to change from its already-launched 2030 campaign. Councilors have given approval to pursue the later event that would commemorate the 100th anniversary of the inaugural edition staged in the same city.
The anniversary is considered an important milestone to the city considered the birthplace of the Commonwealth Games, and hosting in 2030 is meaningful to many.
MacPherson said that the CGF is willing to recognize Hamilton during ceremonies at the future 2030 event if it were to be held in a different city, but to some Councilors say that’s not enough.
Councilors Tom Jackson and Brad Clark – both who voted in favor of the 2030 bid – said they would reject a switch to 2026. Jackson positioned the request from the CGF as a snub.
Other Councilors suggested that the timing during this coronavirus pandemic and the associated health and economic emergencies make 2026 too risky.
On the plus side, Councilor Sam Merulla underlined the value of the delivery of 3000 residential units worth CAD $1 billion with government partner funding and during a time of need.
Recently Clark questioned how the 2026 Games are really the opportunity that the CGF claims if no other cities are stepping forward to host them.
Grevemberg corrected Clark in remarks, explaining “Australia and India are two nations that have expressed interest in hosting the 2026 Games.”
“We have also been approached by a number of other potentially interested hosts for future Games as part of our bid development platform.
“We are focused right now, right here working with you and Hamilton 2026.”
Clark didn’t buy the explanation, referring to Australian media reports last year that a previous bid from Adelaide would not move forward. But South Australia last month ignited a new bid for the Games citing a relatively low AUD $1.1 billion (USD $790 million) price tag for significant economic benefits.
He said India was simply leveraging the Commonwealth Games for an Olympic bid.
Clark dismissed the entire presentation as “a glossy sales report lacking in substance.”
Due to the nature of the bid, Mercanti explained that a robust budget would only be finalized in coordination with the city council and adjusted to balance the need for legacy and cost tolerance.
He said the bid committee will soon be ramping up public engagement, explaining “It’s very important that the community be brought up to speed in the facts.”
“The goal [of the presentation] is to provide information to help council discuss this new offer that is on the table.
“We want to come back to council in September to share more.”
City Council and the bid committee have been given a late September deadline by the CGF to decide whether to pivot. That timing would include the delivery of a multiparty agreement with provincial and federal partners on the support and funding for the project.
Mayor Eisenberger shrugged off the deadline, indicating “I think we should be working on our own timelines.”
The province is reportedly on board with the project, pending the participation of the federal government. Both government would provide a majority of the funding.
Complicating efforts, both governments have already promised financial support to the FIFA World Cup scheduled to take place across North America during the same summer in 2026 with one of the venues planned for nearby BMO Field in Toronto.
MacPherson said he is not concerned, indicating that there will be no schedule conflict and the events will fulfill a government policy that commits to hosting two major events every ten years.
If Hamilton passes on 2026 the city could still move forward with a 2030 bid. That would leave the CGF in a vulnerable position, already behind on its desired site selection timeline and amid a global pandemic.