Hamilton alters course on Commonwealth Games, now focusing on 2026 bid

Hamilton has pivoted from the pursuit of the 2030 Commonwealth Games to a potential bid for 2026.

Projected cost of hosting 2026 Games expected to be $500M less than 2030

The city of Hamilton has pivoted from a planned bid to host the 2030 Commonwealth Games, instead angling for a 2026 bid. (Bobby Hristova/CBC News)

Hamilton has pivoted from the pursuit of the 2030 Commonwealth Games to a potential bid for 2026.

A dearth of global candidates makes the southern Ontario city a virtual slam dunk to host the earlier games. The COVID-19 pandemic also influenced Hamilton's switch.

The city hosted the first edition of the Commonwealth Games — then called the British Empire Games — in 1930.

Bringing the games back a century later lent poetic symmetry to a 2030 bid, led by business people under the banner of Hamilton 100.

But a request by the international Commonwealth Games Federation to consider 2026 instead indicated Hamilton — unsuccessful in landing the 1994, 2010 and 2014 games — wouldn't be challenged.

Hamilton 100 morphed into the Hamilton 2026 Commonwealth Games Bid Corporation.

Economic stimulus

The earlier games are seen as an economic stimulus lever out of financial hardship created by the pandemic.

"This is a private bid," bid corporation spokesperson and lawyer Louis Frapporti told The Canadian Press.

"We're looking at a landscape of incredible economic suffering and looking ahead as business people to what we know will be the case.

"This presents, in a bizarrely serendipitous way, an immediate path to economic revival and resurgence."

The quadrennial Commonwealth Games features 6,500 elite athletes and coaches from 71 countries competing in summer sport.

Gold Coast, Australia, was the most recent host in 2018. Birmingham, England is next in 2022.

Victoria was the last Canadian host city in 1994.

Hamilton 100 had support in principle from the federal, provincial and municipal governments.

Cheaper estimated cost

The feds have indicated willingness for 2026, but the bid can't go before city council until the province signs on again, Frapporti said.

"Are we the city that never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity, which is what we're labelled as? Or are we the ambitious city that people like to talk about?" he asked.

"This is the fundamental question right now."

The 2026 proposal is scaled down with an estimated cost of $1 billion to stage the games, compared to the projected price tag of $1.5 billion for 2030.

The city's estimated contribution for 2030 was forecasted between $250 million and $375 million.

"We've worked to reduce what we expect to be the city's investment materially," Frapporti said.

"We are regionalizing some of the infrastructure. We will be partnering with the City of Toronto, the Niagara peninsula, [town of] Milton in providing some of the venues to take some of the risk and stress off the City of Hamilton in delivering the games."

The U.K.-based Commonwealth Games Federation released a report Wednesday stating the last five games since 2002 generated between $1.36 billion and $2 billion in gross domestic product for the host city or region.

Federation aims to lower operating costs

Fewer cities have shown interest in getting recent games, however. Only two entered the race for 2018.

Durban, South Africa was the sole bidder for 2022. The city was stripped of the games because it couldn't fulfil financial commitments. Birmingham stepped into the breach.

CGF chief executive officer David Grevember hopes the report released this week demonstrates economic reward for the risk.

"The CGF recognizes, particularly in the difficult global climate we are in, that the costs of staging a major sporting event such as the Commonwealth Games is a huge commitment to those cities that have competing priorities for funding," he said in a statement.

"Aligned to our new Games delivery model to drive down operating costs by delivering the Games more efficiently, we feel there is now a clear blueprint outlining how our event can be used as a real catalyst for regeneration following the difficult situation we are collectively facing."

The construction of a pool at McMaster University, three multi-sport centres, a track and field venue and 500 to 700 affordable housing units were central features of Hamilton's 2030 bid proposal.

"Generally speaking from an infrastructure perspective, we're heading in the same directions," Frapporti. "Affordable housing will be an even more pressing issue."


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