Sunday, June 16, 2024

Hammer blow for squash as Aussies scrap 2026 Commonwealth Games

Squash has received a huge blow with the shock news that Victoria has pulled out of hosting the 2026 Commonwealth Games.

The Australian state has cited spiralling costs for its decision to terminate its hosting of the Games, which were due to take place between March 17-29 in three years’ time.

The originally forecast Games budget of AUD$2.6 billion (£1.3 billion) is expected to rise to be AUD$6 billion (£3.1 billion).

In announcing the news at a hastily arranged morning press conference, Victoria State Premier Daniel Andrews said: “I’ve made a lot of difficult calls, a lot of very difficult decisions in this job. This is not one of them. This is all cost and no benefit.

“I cannot stand here and say to you that I have any confidence that even AUD$7 billion would appropriately and adequately fund these Games.

Gina Kennedy celebrates with her Commonwealth Games gold medal last summer in Birmingham

“$6 to $7 billion [£3.6 billion] is well and truly too much for a 12-day sporting event. I will not take money out of hospitals and schools in order to fund an event that is three times the cost [which] is estimated and budgeted for last year.

“In terms of where we go to from here, the Games will not proceed in Victoria in 2026.”

The squash competitions at Victoria 2026 were due to take place in Bendigo, 93 miles north west of Melbourne. It was originally a gold rush town, but no riches will now be forthcoming from the squash-watching public.

The Commonwealth Games have become squash’s blue riband multi-sport event since first appearing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1998. It has been part of all six Games since and was named as one of 16 core sports for Victoria in 2026.

The World Junior Championships, which start today in Melbourne, were meant to be an exciting appetiser for the Games in the same Australian state. The Australian Government and Australian Institute of Sport had pledged to invest AUD$2.36million (£1.23million) in squash over the next four years as part of preparations for the Games. That funding may now be under threat.

This morning, the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) claimed it had been only given eight hours’ notice of Victoria’s decision.

In a statement, it said: “This is hugely disappointing for the Commonwealth Sport Movement, for athletes around the Commonwealth and the Organising Committee who are well advanced in their planning and preparation.

Glen Wilson and Paul Hornsby (left) with men’s singles gold medal winner Paul Coll in Birmingham

“The reasons given are financial. The numbers quoted to us today of $6 billion are 50 per cent more than those advised to the Organising Committee Board at its meeting in June.”

The statement added that “no consideration was given to discussing the situation to jointly find solutions prior to this decision being reached by the Government.”

It added: “We are taking advice on the options available to us and remain committed to finding a solution for the Games in 2026 that is in the best interest of our athletes and the wider Commonwealth Sport Movement.”

The 2022 Commonwealth Games had also seen the original host city, Durban, pull out due to financial issues five years before the planned start of the event. Birmingham stepped in a produced one of the most successful and memorable Games in living memory.

The CGF now faces another search for a new host with just three years to prepare.

Sydney and South Australia had previously expressed an interest before the decision went with Victoria. India or Malaysia may want to step in – or there is even speculation of Birmingham holding back-to-back Games.

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