(ATR) Hamilton 2026 bid leaders make an initial presentation to convince city council members to support a bid by the Canadian city for the Commonwealth Games.
CGF CEO David Grevemberg virtually attended the meeting. (Hamilton City Council)
PJ Mercanti, the Hamilton 2026 president, was joined by Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) chief executive David Grevemberg and Commonwealth Sport Canada CEO Brian MacPherson among others for what was described as an information session during a virtual meeting of the General lssues Committee (GIC) on Monday.
Hamilton 2026 says hosting the Games will help to kick start Hamilton’s economy in the time of the Covid-19 pandemic. A legacy of the Games would be 3,000 affordable housing units in a city that is desperate for them.
Mercanti also said that the Games could be delivered with little or no impact to Hamilton taxpayers, relying instead on the use of existing city expenditures, contributions from the private sector and major funding from both the provincial government of Ontario and the Canadian federal government.
But there was no preliminary budget included in the presentation. Mercanti says Hamilton 2026 wanted to present a framework for consulting with the council on the size of the Games before presenting a budget.
“We are not handing you a bid. In a very significant departure from this city’s prior involvement with the Games, or any city’s involvement with the Games, we are not making any choices for you,” Mercanti told the meeting.
But that didn’t sit well with some council members, who want to know the potential cost before they give their approval in principle.
The end of September deadline on deciding whether to move to the next stage of the process is also a bone of contention with some on the council believing there is not enough time to make a proper decision.
Hamilton mayor Fred Eisenberger told the meeting “I think we should be working on our own timelines”.
He supports staying with Hamilton’s original plan of bidding for the centenary 2030 Games. Hamilton hosted the inaugural Games in 1930. But Eisenberger would support a 2026 bid if it would benefit the city more than one in 2030. He, like most of the councilors, wants to find out more details.
That doesn't appear to be the case for some.
Hamilton was asked to pivot from 2030 to 2026. (Wikipedia)
Council members Brad Clark, Nrinder Nann and Maureen Wilson all voted against receiving the Hamilton 2026 presentation. They all voiced concerns for spending a large sum of money on the Games while dealing with a city debt of more than CAN$3 billion.
A fourth council member, Tom Jackson, citing Hamilton being passed over for hosting the Games in 1994, 2010 and 2014 and now being asked to host in 2026 rather than 2030, says he’s done with the CGF and won’t support a 2026 bid.
Council member Brenda Johnson also said she would vote against a bid.
There was no formal vote taken at the meeting and a majority of councilors did not state their opinion on the bid.
The Council expects to hear more details from Hamilton 2026 early next month and the plan is to have city staff put together an analysis of the bid before a vote.
Should the council approve in principle a bid for the Games, the next step in the process would be hashing out a funding agreement between the federal, provincial and municipal governments.
MacPherson told the meeting that the federal government will back the bid if Ontario does. Mercanti added that Ontario’s sports minister has told reporters that the province supports the bid in principle.
During the meeting, Grevemberg denied that Hamilton was the only option for hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2026. The CGF convinced Hamilton to pivot from 2030 to 2026 in April following the decision by Adelaide, Australia in September to withdraw its bid.
Grevemberg told the meeting that India and Australia have both expressed interest in hosting in 2026.
Written and reported by Gerard Farek
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