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Hamilton reverts to pursuit of 2030 Commonwealth Games, Victoria interested in 2026

Hamilton resumed its quest to host the 2030 Commonwealth Games a century after the first edition was held in that city, and abandoned a bid for 2026.

Hamilton resumed its quest to host the 2030 Commonwealth Games a century after the first edition was held in that city, and abandoned a bid for 2026.

The southern Ontario city was asked a year ago by the international Commonwealth Games Federation to consider a 2026 bid because of a dearth of candidate cities.

A group of business owners and community leaders under the banner of Hamilton 100 obliged, but the pivot didn't gain traction.

The Ontario government wasn't willing to commit to a Commonwealth Games until 2027 or later, and the CWF had little interest in coming off its traditional schedule of a Games every four years.

"We felt we should go back to the original plan," bid committee spokesman Louis Frapporti told The Canadian Press on Wednesday. "That was clearest and most direct path."

Hamilton hosted the first iteration of the Commonwealth Games, which was the British Empire Games, in 1930.

In reverting to the poetry of a centenary Games in 2030 and away from the slam dunk of 2026, Hamilton will likely be up against competing bids from Australia, the United Kingdom and other countries.

The successful host city is expected to be named in 2023.

Hamilton unsuccessfully pursued the 1994, 2010 and 2014 Commonwealth Games. Victoria was the last Canadian host city in 1994. 

Birmingham, England, will be the 2022 site.

A possible 2030 hurdle for Hamilton comes from within Canada, however. There are rumblings Victoria is interested in 2026.

David Black, a director of the 1994 Games, recently wrote an op-ed extolling the benefits of B.C.'s capital pursuing the Games again.

"There's a group in Victoria, a volunteer-based group, who are exploring the possibility of a bid," Commonwealth Sport Canada chief executive officer Brian MacPherson told The Canadian Press. 

"We'll watch to see how that will unfold. Hamilton is our candidate city and only candidate city for 2030. That's done. They earned it."

Never in the history of the Commonwealth Games has a country been awarded two consecutive Games.

"It is awkward," MacPherson admitted. "We're not here to put down the aspirations of any group. 

"Our overall goal is to host the Commonwealth Games in Canada as soon as possible. It's been way too long. It's our turn."

If Victoria is serious about 2026, the clock is ticking, he added.

"CGF is talking to other countries around 2026," MacPherson said. "I believe they'll award the 2026 Games to the first city that comes to the table with a strong, hosting plan and supported by governments in their country. 

"First past the post. That could happen tomorrow for all we know."

Hamilton had the option of hosting a smaller Games with fewer sports and athletes for less cost in 2026.

A 2030 bid requires scaling up again to 21 sports from 18, and to 6,700 athletes instead of 5,500. 

Hamilton had support in principle from all three levels of government for 2030, before exploring the 2026 option.

The 2030 plan has morphed into a hybrid of two bids, with lower infrastructure costs, more social legacy and the involvement of the region around Hamilton, Frapporti said.

"We don't feel its tenable to go back to the original 2030 and ignore the world as it exists today," he explained. 

"It is the centenary, we have to win a bid, so we can't do it on the cheap. It's not guarantee. On the other hand, it can't be about cathedrals to sport. 

"It has to be focused on social need and impact and the legacy in those areas."

The estimated cost is somewhere between the $1 billion of 2026 and the $1.5 billion of 2030, but with modifications.

"That number would include not just venues and infrastructure, but obviously all aspects of operations for the Games in 2030," Frapporti said. "That includes such things as security.

"We anticipate the venue costs, the hard infrastructure costs, are going to be very significantly down from the original of 2030."

One new element for 2030 is the involvement of Six Nations, with plans to build the lacrosse facility on their lands.

"We're going to make the Indigenous communities in our region a coequal partner in these Games," Frapporti said. "They're going to have a seat at the table."

 This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 28, 2021.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version incorrectly stated the Games partnership with Six Nations included plans for a cricket facility.