The budget for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, has grown way beyond the original estimate, fuelling debate once again about whether Halifax was right to abandon its bid to host the games.

Glasgow won the bid to host the games after Halifax decided to pull out because of the price tag.

Originally estimated to cost $676 million, the 2014 Commonwealth Games are now expected to cost Scotland’s largest city more than $1 billion.

That $1-billion figure was the revised estimate of the cost of the games after detailed work on the budget was completed by the organizing committee, known as Glasgow 2014. It was established in 2009.

In 2007, Halifax had a grand vision for the games that included a brand new stadium, spruced-up sports facilities and Halifax taking centre stage hosting a world-class event.

But it all came crashing down under the weight of the cost. At the time, Mayor Peter Kelly bore the brunt of criticism.

"We were sold out. This council was sold out by our mayor," said Coun. Sue Uteck in 2007.

"You can't have a team without a captain. And we don't have a captain,” said then Halifax city councillor Sheila Fougere.

Officials at the time said the team of consultants hired to analyze the games found there were questionable revenue projections and insufficient contingency funding that could leave the province at risk in case of cost overruns.

Cost could have grown to $1.7 billion

In addition, the consultants said 92 per cent of the cost of the Games would have to be provided by taxpayers, a higher level than was expected.

The federal government said it would commit only $400 million if Halifax won the bid, while the province said it would spend up to $300 million.

Officials in Halifax estimated the cost here could have grown to $1.7 billion.

Fougere remains convinced Halifax could have hosted the games on a frugal budget.

"I know if we had we gone forward we would have done an amazing job because we're very, good at international sporting events here," said Fougere.

"The Oval is a great example of a legacy piece that's left behind from an event, from the Canada Games. And you see people using it every day. It's open year-round and it's been a wonderful addition."

But not everyone is second guessing the decision to pull out of the bid.

"I think the decision was right then and it's right now," said former Conservative cabinet minister Barry Barnet.

Barnet was the cabinet minister who made the call. He said the province needs to build first, then bid.

"I think a better approach would be to try to build a base of infrastructure and then at some future point, look at hosting games like that," he said.


  • This story has been clarified to reflect concerns expressed by Glasgow 2014 that it remains within the budget organizers set, after the detailed budget was prepared in 2009.
    Feb 25, 2014 7:37 PM AT