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Amateur track official urges caution on Hamilton Commonwealth Games bid

Amateur track official urges caution on Hamilton Commonwealth Games bid

Kevin Gonci is the co-chair of The Golden Horseshoe Track and Field Council, and says he is speaking strictly on his own behalf. But he has urged Hamilton City Council to look carefully into the actual costs of the proposed Commonwealth Games before committing to the project. In his letter to Council which accompanies a 14-page report on other Commonwealth games, Mr. Gonci writes: Without question, there are major short and long-term benefits to Hamilton hosting the Commonwealth Games but how much will it cost us and what risks are we taking? There are still several unanswered questions and more importantly a lack of funding commitments from both public and private sector sources in addition to an increasing provincial and federal deficit which may in fact triple within the next few years and calls for a thorough examination of the facts and more importantly the risks involved before we make commitments which may adversely impact generations of Hamilton residents.

In the report Mr. Gonci reviews previous Commonwealth Games bids starting with the 2014 Halifax bid which collapsed when the cost estimates spiraled to the point that senior governments withdrew their funding. The games then went to Glasgow, who Mr. Gonci alleges came in slightly under budget only because they had inflated their contingency budget. He says the 2018 Australia games came in under budget. With regard to the Birmingham 2022 Games he says the city has cut programs and implemented a tax surcharge to pay for the games. He noted that Victoria, Toronto and Edmonton all looked at bidding on the 2022 games and all withdrew.  He also noted that Calgary looked at the same 2026 Games as Hamilton is now considering, but withdrew when they were unable to get enough senior government support.

In his summary Mr Gonci writes, “There has been no formal expressions of interests (internationally) to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games and as previously illustrated (Victoria, Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary and Halifax) had difficulty securing critical funding at various levels of government. This mega event will dominate the local agenda for years potentially pushing sewer treatment, aging infrastructure, transportation and other important capital development projects to the back burner.  It is worth considering that Toronto, Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton and more appropriately, Halifax, withdrew their bid after concluding the risks and costs were too high.”

He told the Bay Observer, “I don’t want to come off as a skeptic, and if the numbers end up looking good, I’m good. But council needs to take a careful look before making a decision.” He also pointed out that Hamilton is being invited by Commonwealth Games organizers to bid on 2026 because nobody else so far is bidding. “A lot of the public support for the games was because of the 2030 centennial and its connection to Hamilton,” he noted.

The full presentation is here.

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