The 2026 Commonwealth Games could be pushed back a year as officials work to find a new state – or several cities – to host the event, an inquiry has heard.
Craig Phillips, the chief executive of Commonwealth Games Australia, on Friday said the organisation was working on plans for a “scaled-back” event that might be held in 2027.
“It may be a scaled back version of the games, given the time we have, but if you look around the capital cities around Australia … all have the capability of hosting games,” Phillips told a Senate inquiry that’s examining the Victorian government’s decision to withdraw from hosting the event.
“Even some of the smaller cities around the country have that capability of certainly contributing to a game. We have to look at all possible models – a single-city games, a shared hosting arrangement.”
However, under questioning from Liberal senator Anne Ruston, Phillips conceded the organisation was “not ready” to approach state, territory or local governments about hosting the event.
“Governments are going to want to know what it’s going to mean for a city, what it’s going to cost, what their obligations are. We’re developing the model to actually be able to have those sensible discussions with state governments and councils,” he said.
Last month, the Victorian government reached a $380m settlement with Commonwealth Games organisers to cancel the event, after it said forecast costs for hosting it blew out from an initial $2.6bn estimate to almost $7bn.
Phillips said Commonwealth Games Australia had work to do to “dismantle” the “price tag” put on the event by the Victorian government.
He said he has only met Gold Coast mayor, Tom Tate, who has previously told the senate inquiry his city could host the Games in 2026 for $1bn. However, the Queensland government – along with other state premiers – has said it was not interested in hosting the event.
Ruston expressed concern about the “lack of urgency” by Commonwealth Games organisers.
“From the outside, this all looks like everybody’s packed their bags up and gone home,” she said.
Phillips said it was his intention to present a solution to the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) general assembly, which is due to meet in Singapore in November.
“The CGF have already indicated – they’ve done this publicly – that they are open to the games moving into 2027 to give any potential host more time, and that’s certainly something we’re looking at in terms of any state or any host city that we do talk to,” he said.
The inquiry was originally set up to assess Australia’s preparations to host the games alongside the 2032 Olympics and Paralympics.
But submissions were reopened after the cancellation of the Victorian event, with Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie calling on the premier, Daniel Andrews, and responsible ministers to front the inquiry to explain the decision-making that led to the decision.
The premier declined the offer to attend or provide evidence.
Phillips said he was unable to say if part of the deal to terminate the contract with Victoria include an agreement not to criticise the government.
But he said other countries were relying on Australia to find a new host city.
“We talked to our colleagues in the Pacific, we talked to our colleagues in the UK, and they will tell us the same thing: ‘Good luck finding a host because we want to come to Australia, we want you to find a host,’” he said.
“It’s clear that our colleagues from around the Commonwealth expect an Australian solution.”
Neil Fergus, who has been involved in security for every Olympics since the Sydney games in 2000, also appeared before the inquiry to urge the federal government to take over the execution of a multi-jurisdictional event.