Edmonton confirms it won’t bid for Commonwealth Games

Canada's Penny Oleksiak swims to a second place finish in her semifinal for the women's 11m butterfly during swimming finals at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, on April 5, 2018. Ryan Remiorz, The Canadian Press

The City of Edmonton has given the idea of bidding for either the 2026 or 2030 Commonwealth Games a red card. That’s because the city’s administration does not want to jeopardize efforts for its bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup of Soccer.

A report from the city’s administration released Thursday that will be reviewed by council’s Community and Public Services Committee May 8, cites legal complications with a Commonwealth Games bid.

“The City of Edmonton’s Major Event Strategy, approved in Fall 2018, calls for only one mega event in a 20 to 30-year period and the 2026 FIFA World Cup is the mega event currently in development,” the report reads.

Legal and budgetary conflicts would also hinder a Commonwealth Games bid, according to the report.

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“The City of Edmonton has entered into a Host City Agreement with FIFA where the city committed to ensure that ‘no other major sporting event, other than [FIFA], is staged in the Host City for a period starting seven days prior to the opening match and ending seven days after the final match’ and ‘it shall not devote greater resources to the promotion of another major sporting event staged in the Host City in the year prior to the competition period than it does to the promotion of the Competition.'”

“I’m not actually surprised at the outcome of this report,” said Councillor Sarah Hamilton, who chairs the committee. “We know how much major events cost.”

The initial business case for the 2022 Commonwealth Games projected a budget of $1 billion, which included capital infrastructure upgrades for the city.

As for the FIFA bid, the city has federal backing but is still waiting for a commitment from the provincial government.

“We were looking for about $15 million from the province to keep that bid going,” Hamilton said. She’s hopeful there won’t be the same reluctance from the Kenney government as there was under the NDP.

As Global News first reported earlier this week, Edmonton participated earlier this year with 13 other cities in a technical briefing run by Commonwealth Games Canada on the opportunity to bid for the 2026 or 2030 Commonwealth Games.

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“We do know, we’ve been told that FIFA has a rule that if you are a city hosting FIFA World Cup games then logically you cannot host any other big major event in that summer,” Brian MacPherson, the CEO of Commonwealth Games Canada told Global News when he confirmed Edmonton’s original interest.

In 2014, Edmonton submitted its interest as a candidate city to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games. The City withdrew its intent in February 2015 after the Jim Prentice government did not support a bid in part due to the economic downturn at the time.

At that point, Edmonton negotiated the right to transfer its interest to 2026 if the provincial economy had improved. The city opted to not exercise the option, resulting in the competition being open to all cities in Canada.

The games originated in 1930, with Hamilton as the first host when it was known as the British Empire Games. Hamilton is bidding for 2030 to mark the centennial of the event.

The final word on the soccer bid will come in 2021.

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