Council reacts to Comm Games axing

Shock decision: Latrobe City Council Mayor Kellie O'Callaghan had no indication that the state government would cancel the Victorian 2026 Commonwealth Games. Photograph Zaida Glibanovic


THE Victorian government’s shock announcement to cancel the 2026 Commonwealth Games surprised local communities and Latrobe City Council (LCC).

LCC Mayor Kellie O’Callaghan said Premier Dan Andrews’ announcement this morning was unexpected.

“A complete cancellation is a pretty big announcement and a significant disappointment for our local community,” The Mayor said to the press at Gippsland Regional Performing Arts Centre on Tuesday (July 18).

The rights to host the 2026 event were awarded to regional Victoria last year after Birmingham replaced South Africa’s Durban as host of the 2022 games.

In a call that surprised most on Tuesday morning, Victorian Premier Dan Andrews said the Commonwealth Games budget had blown out by $4 billion at the minimum, forcing the state government to give up its hosting duties for the event in 2026.

“We certainly hadn’t had an indication from the state that there would be a complete cancellation,” Mayor O’Callaghan said.

“As time was sort of creeping up on us as we got closer to the Commonwealth Games date, what needed to be clear was that some of these infrastructure projects needed to be started now.

“I’ve been doing this for a little while now, and I think even when I looked at the state budget, and there wasn’t further funding in relation to the commonwealth games – it peaked my interest, but more so around timing.

A total of $2.6 billion dollars was allocated for the Commonwealth Games from last year’s Victorian State Budget.

But little detail or itemisation and no further funding in this year’s budget was given, with the state hoping that the federal government would step in to foot the bill.

The state government faced widespread criticism for leaving the planning of the games too late, with many regional councils feeling pressured to deliver a world-class event with little funding in little time.

“We knew that would put a lot of pressure on us in relation to what we were going to be able to do to actually deliver,” said Mayor O’Callaghan.

“We were raising questions around that money being available in a timely way so we could build the infrastructure. It didn’t necessarily give an indication of the completeness of the games being cancelled.”

Mayor O’Callaghan indicated that the LCC had no means to provide further funding or resources in the lead-up to the games and would have needed to rely on the state government’s commitment to undertake the necessary upgrades for the event.

“The cost escalations in relation to this were not something we could bear the burden of,” she said.

The Commonwealth Games cancellation comes as a huge blow for not only Latrobe Valley but for the entire Gippsland region, as it was set to be the hub for a number of the primary sports.

“In Latrobe, we were really fortunate that we had a range of our towns engaged with the activities. So we would have seen Rugby sevens in Morwell,” Mayor O’Callaghan added.

“We would have seen our biggest crows through Rugby sevens.”

The Mayor said the Rugby sevens alone would have brought in around 20,000 people.

T20 cricket was set to be played at Moe’s Ted Summerton Reserve, Road Cycling would have taken place in the heart of Traralgon, and the Gippsland Indoor Sports Stadium (GRISS) would have featured Badminton, with shooting also set to of taken place in the region.

The LCC was looking forward to further upgrades of existing infrastructure to accommodate the games.

“There would’ve been more work undertaken (at the GRISS). It would have been of benefit to the basketball and other sports communities engaged in that,” The Mayor said.

The Commonwealth Games would have brought many benefits to the region.

“There were lots of things that it would’ve brought for us: visitor economy, people coming into the community, but we also would’ve had an athlete’s village that was to be constructed in Morwell,” Mayor O’Callaghan said.

The Morwell games village would have hosted 1000 athletes and officials for the regional event.

Special emphasis was placed on making an athlete’s village with the possibility of providing valuable housing for local residents after the event’s conclusion.

“(It) would’ve supported particularly our work around aging in place, and affordable housing opportunities, particularly for our young people, and we were hoping that potentially there would have been a rent-to-buy opportunity that would have been created out of that village development,” said the Mayor.

“We’ll now work with the state to see whether we can continue along in that vein with the announcements they’ve made around social and affordable housing today as well,” she added.

Tuesday’s press conference was given by Premier Daniel Andrews alongside the Minister for Commonwealth Games Delivery, Jacinta Allan, and the Minister for Commonwealth Games Legacy, Harriett Shing.

Regional Victoria will set to receive a $2 billion investment in lieu of the cancelled Commonwealth Games, yet details remain scarce.

The Mayor mentioned that the state’s regional investment could arise as a positive, as it would be tailored to regional needs, opposed to being repurposed from the games.

The state has promised around $1 billion to build 1300 homes under the Regional Housing Fund, as well as $150 million from the Regional Tourism and Events Fund to promote new events, attractions and accommodation to regional areas.

The Commonwealth Games were originally due to take place in from March 17 to March 29, 2026, spread across the five regional hubs of Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat, Shepparton and Gippsland.

More to come.