SYDNEY — In a surprising turn of events, the Gold Coast has officially withdrawn its bid to host the upcoming Commonwealth Games, extinguishing any remaining hopes of the prestigious sporting event being held on Australian soil. The coastal city, renowned for hosting the 2018 Games, faced staunch opposition from both federal and state governments, ultimately leading to the demise of its bid.
Despite Mayor Tom Tate's unwavering insistence that the Gold Coast could replicate its success as a host city, key stakeholders, including his own deputy mayor, firmly rejected the idea. The repercussions of this withdrawal are significant, as organizers now contemplate the possibility of postponing or canceling the next installment of the Commonwealth Games.
The Commonwealth Games, a quadrennial multi-sport extravaganza, has a storied history, with its only cancellation occurring during World War Two. Participation in the Games is open to competitors from over 70 nations or territories, many of which share historical ties to the British Empire.
The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) encountered difficulties in securing a host for the 2026 Games until Victoria volunteered. However, a month after Victoria's withdrawal, the sole contender for the 2030 Games, the Canadian province of Alberta, also abandoned its hosting plans. Presently, there are no concrete bids for hosting either the 2026 or 2030 Games.
Governments cite the escalating cost of the event as a primary concern, while experts argue that its global standing and perceived relevance are diminishing. Originally estimated at A$2.6 billion, the Victorian Games, slated to be hosted across various cities, including Geelong, Bendigo, and Ballarat, saw their projected cost surge to over A$6 billion.
Mayor Tate proposed a "streamlined" version of the event for A$700 million, even considering the possibility of sharing the hosting responsibilities with Perth, a city six hours away by flight. Despite garnering support from prominent figures such as Australian billionaires Gina Rinehart and Gerry Harvey, as well as athletes eager for the event to proceed, the proposal failed to sway the Queensland or federal governments.
In a statement, Mayor Tate expressed disappointment, noting, "We did our best, and that's all people can expect." He emphasized that Australia's reputation would now bear the brunt, stating that the nation would be viewed as one that reneges on a global sports contract, leaving its standing "in tatters."
While Commonwealth Games Australia (CGA) hoped to retain the Games within the country, Chief Executive Craig Phillips acknowledged Mayor Tate's decision. He assured that CGA, in collaboration with the CGF, is actively seeking alternative solutions for Australian and Pacific athletes, with ongoing discussions spanning four continents. The uncertainty surrounding the future hosts of the Commonwealth Games underscores the challenges faced by the event and the urgent need for a viable solution.