BidWeek: Options Remain For Hamilton Commonwealth Games Bid Despite Setbacks

Robert Livingstone

Robert Livingstone

BidWeek, Reporting From Toronto, Canada –  Recent reports have suggested that a Hamilton 2026 Commonwealth Games, an event being offered exclusively to Canada by the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), is not viable due to pushback from the provincial government of Ontario.

It’s 2020, and I don’t want to write ‘unprecedented’ but… oh there, I’ve done it.

Have we not learned anything from nine months of extraordinary changes in the world of international sport, things that are now just simply normal?

Next year the Olympic Games will open in an odd-numbered year for the first time in its modern 124-year history – summer, winter or youth.  From there, and due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, unusual changes to the sport calendar are rampant.  Whether using balls or pucks or horses – things have changed.

Amid lockdowns, testing, and crystal ball watching, scheduling major events has become an art as much as a science.

Hamilton 2026

This Hamilton conundrum too can be worked out without artificial calendar loyalty.

It’s clear, the discussion around Hamilton hosting in 2026, or in 2027, is far from over.  All parties have admitted as much while a dialogue remains open.

Here’s what I know:

Ontario’s Minister of Heritage and Sport Lisa MacLeod last week said it would be financially impossible for the province to fund both the Commonwealth Games and the 2026 FIFA World Cup – an event already set to be co-hosted among Canada, the United States and Mexico – in the same calendar year.  Provincial capital Toronto only 70 km away from Hamilton is considered likely to host some of the football matches.

The FIFA World Cup remains a high priority for the provincial government.

GamesBids.com further understands that FIFA has written to the CGF to clarify that the conflict between the two events is a concern for the province, and not (I repeat, not) an issue for the powerful FIFA football federation.  That’s important because it means the situation is negotiable with the province and without the risk that federations will threaten to withdraw.

A CGF spokesperson said in a statement that “we have just entered into a dialogue with leading representatives from the province.”

Indeed, Commonwealth Sport Canada (CSC) chief Brian MacPherson told GamesBids.com that there are ongoing discussions between the Ontario government and the CGF around hosting in 2026, and his organization will wait for the results of this dialogue before determining next steps, which could include targeting 2027.

There has been no discussion around the feasibility of 2027 while 2026 remains on the table.

Both MacPherson and a spokesperson for the CGF have independently confirmed to me that there has been no official request to consider staging the Games in 2027 – yet the option remains on the table.

MacPherson, however, did elaborate that “…if CSC makes a request to CGF to move a Hamilton 2026 Commonwealth Games to 2027, it will only be made if the Hamilton Bid Committee and all three levels of Government (City of Hamilton, Ontario Government and Federal Government) have given their support-in-principle for a Hamilton 2027 Commonwealth Games.”

Hamilton 2026 Commonwealth Games Bid In Danger After Province Denies Funding Amid FIFA Conflict

Minister McLeod confirmed last week that her provincial government would support a 2027 Commonwealth Games in Hamilton, and according to policy, the federal government would likely join.  Hamilton city council would need to agree before CSC makes the formal request to CGF.

From everything I have heard, the CGF would likely give the 2027 proposal serious consideration.

The Commonwealth Games have traditionally been awarded seven years ahead of the event, but recent setbacks – including stripping South Africa’s Durban of the 2022 Games due to missed financial milestones – have left the CGF almost two years behind schedule.  Amid a global pandemic that could continue to wreak health and economic havoc across the Commonwealth for months to come, the CGF could have very limited options.

In October a last-ditch attempt to launch a 2026 bid by Australia’s Adelaide collapsed, eliminating a viable back-up plan for the federation.  India remains interested, but memories of a disastrous Games marked with incomplete venues and corruption that was staged in Delhi in 2010 could dissuade the CGF.

GamesBids.com understands that the CGF is involved in private discussions with other Commonwealth jurisdictions that are interested in hosting.  But whispers behind the scenes are unlikely to result in viable projects at this late date.

So if 2026 with Hamilton is an absolute no-go, CGC could simply approach the CGF and ask about 2027.

Honestly, my recent communications with the two organizations brings me back to high school, and memories of attempts to set up friends for the prom.

Hamilton Canada

Hamilton, Canada (Wikipedia)

I asked MacPherson, ‘will you ask the CGF about 2027’?  He answered “to date Commonwealth Sport Canada has not made a request to CGF to move a Hamilton 2026 Commonwealth Games to 2027.”

The CGF has said “there has been no formal request to the CGF to consider 2027 so this is not a scenario we have looked at.”

Maybe someone can pass notes to them.

They’re not being coy, but just trying to hash out options for 2026 until there are none left.  The province says it can’t afford an additional event in 2026 but Hamilton 2026 organizers assert the opposite, that a Games could promote a quicker economic recovery.

While the province deals with record-breaking numbers of COVID-19 cases and the related financial crisis, this could take some time.

Then, maybe, they’ll talk about prom.

But Hamilton shouldn’t take too much time or another city might show up, looking for a date.

Robert Livingstone

About Robert Livingstone

Robert Livingstone is a senior editor, award-winning journalist and author, covering Olympic bid business as founder of GamesBids.com as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. He is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians. Follow him @enotsgnivil