Hamilton’s General Issues Committee (GIC) will be hearing from the group of private citizens and businesses making a push for the city to host the Commonwealth Games in 2026 on the status of the bid in a few weeks.
On Monday (July 6), GIC voted on a motion put forth by Ward 15 Judi Partridge to invite the Hamilton2026 team, Commonwealth Sport Canada and the Commonwealth Games Federation make a presentation to the GIC to provide some input on moving forward with a 2026 bid and to answer councillors’ questions.
Initially, Hamilton was pitching to hold the 100th anniversary of the Games in 2030. As the city to hold the first edition of the Games in 1930, known then as the British Empire Games, Hamilton seemed a logical place for the 100th anniversary.
The bid pivoted to pitching for the 2026 Games back in May when the Commonwealth Games Federation asked the Hamilton contingent to consider a bid for 2026 because it likely wouldn’t be challenged.
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It’s also believed that hosting an earlier Games could potentially provide some much needed economic stimulation in the years following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this year, the GIC heard from the group orchestrating the bid, which pegged the approximate cost of hosting the Games in 2030 at $1.425 billion.
Much of that could be subsidized by Federal and Provincial funds.
The municipal contribution was estimated between $200 to $300 million, at the time.
The 2026 Games, however, reportedly comes at a significantly lower price tag at approximately $1 billion. The amount required from Hamilton taxpayers in this scenario is yet to be revealed.
In the wake of a global pandemic, though, any commitment to hosting an event of this size is putting some councillors off.
Ward 9 councillor Brad Clark was the first to raise the question as to why the bid pivoted to 2026 instead of 2030, which made more sense given the timing and symbolism.
“Why is no one else competing for 2026?” he asked. “What do other cities know that we don’t know?”
He went on to say that given the current global crisis and the deepening deficit the City is facing, he couldn’t in good conscience consider committing to a bid that commits taxpayers to spend millions of dollars.
Other councillors also voiced their trepidation for supporting the bid given the current economic uncertainty.
The debate on the issue continued when some around the table on Monday felt that some councillors weren’t giving the organizers of the bid a “fair shake,” and that given all the money and work they’ve put into the proposal they should at least be given the opportunity to present to councillors their scaled-back plans for 2026.
When the motion was put to a vote, councillors agreed to allow for a presentation at the committee’s meeting on August 10th.
Ward 8 councillor John-Paul Danko voiced his intention to put forward a motion to allow for the community to be allowed to weigh in on the debate surrounding the Games — input that has been lacking since the move to conduct council business virtually earlier this year.