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Rachael Ward

Athletics in 'survival mode' after Games cancellation

Athletics Australia has hit out at the way former Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews scrapped the 2026 Commonwealth Games, saying the sport is now in survival mode and the decision created "immeasurable" upheaval.

The cancellation had a devastating impact on athletes and the sport, according to the governing body's submission to a parliamentary inquiry into the 2026 Commonwealth Games Bid.

The submission took issue with how Mr Andrews cancelled the event, claiming it showed disregard for logistical, emotional, financial and reputational damage caused.

"The manner in which the news of the cancellation was delivered further compounded the angst, with the then Premier of Victoria stating that he made no apology for cancelling the Games to instead invest in regional Victoria," it stated.

Former premier Daniel Andrews announced Victoria was pulling out of hosting the Games across regional areas on July 18, citing the original estimated cost blowing out between $6 billion and $7 billion.

The Victorian Government has agreed to pay $380 million in compensation to organisers as part of a settlement while the sudden cancellation sparked a Victorian parliamentary inquiry and auditor-general probe.

Taxpayers also covered more than $1.3 million in legal fees and other costs to scrap the event, a document from the Department of Premier and Cabinet tabled to the inquiry in October revealed.

Athletics Australia said the cancellation impacted pathways for the next generation of athletes and the repercussions would be felt for years.

It had hoped fit-for-purpose athletics infrastructure would have been created for the Games and called on the government to continue building it over fears Victoria's facilities will be left behind.

A spokesperson for the Victorian Government said it is delivering a $2 billion package to ensure regional Victoria still receives the benefits that would have been facilitated by the Games.

"When the Commonwealth Games needed a host city to step in at the last minute, we were willing to help – but not at any price, and not without a big lasting benefit for regional Victoria," they said.

"As we said at the time - we understand the disappointment of athletes, but it would be a far greater regret if we'd had to take money from things Victorians need, like schools and hospitals, for a 12 day sporting event."

Premier Jacinta Allan, who was previously minister responsible for delivering the games, has refused to front the upper house inquiry to answer questions about the cancellation.

It is powerless to compel her to appear because she sits in parliament's lower house.

Mr Andrews and former sports minister Martin Pakula have also declined formal invitations.

The opposition's tourism, sport and events spokesman Sam Groth labelled the submission as "scathing" and called on Ms Allan to appear before the inquiry.

"If she won't do that, the very least she can do is apologise to the athletes who won't get to compete for their country on home soil," Mr Groth said.

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