Embarrassing, very disappointing and a damn shame is how Australian sporting icon Dawn Fraser sums up the decision to axe the 2026 Commonwealth Games in Victoria.
Earlier this week, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced the Games were being cancelled by his Government because of a cost blowout.
The decision has attracted support and condemnation from around Australia and overseas.
Dawn Fraser is an Australian swimming legend who now lives at Noosa on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
She has fond memories of competing at the Games and is unhappy the 2026 version won’t be happening in our backyard.
“I was absolutely very disappointed because I’m thinking of the future of our athletes,” Ms Fraser said.
“We’ve set a pathway for junior athletes to the Brisbane Olympic Games and this would have been a fantastic competition for them prior to that Games and I think it’s so disappointing, not just for one sport but for all sports in our country that are participating in Commonwealth Games.
“I do feel for the athletes that have been training hard for the Commonwealth Games and the young ones that we set the pathway for what they are going to do in the future,” she said.
Ms Fraser said cancelling the event three years out is embarrassing.
“Oh absolutely, I think it’s the most embarrassing thing that has happened to this country at the moment you know because what are the kids that have their minds set on the Melbourne Commonwealth Games, what are they going to do now?
“You know there are going to be some athletes that couldn’t make the Olympic Games but they could have made the Commonwealth Games. It would have been a stepping stone for them to participate in the Olympic Games.
And the Olympic and Commonwealth Games champion is also confused why Victoria bid for the event and how it got its sums so wrong.
“Number one is the question, could the State afford it? Number two, did they do their sums before they went and bid for the Commonwealth Games and I don’t think they have,” Ms Fraser said.
“I can’t see where a venue around the state of Victoria was going to work anyway because they had to build new structures, they had to build new sporting arenas and that was going to cost a lot of money.
“Why wasn’t that put into the bill, that they sit down and said this is how much money we’re going to spend.
“I mean, I can’t imagine something has blown out from $2.1-billion to $6-billion. I mean that’s $4 billion. I mean heavens above, where has the money gone to?” she said.
Australia has previously hosted the Commonwealth Games in Sydney, Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne in 2006 and most recently the Gold Coast in 2018.
No Australian state or city has put their hand up to step in and host the 2026 Games.
“We’ve done well in the Commonwealth Games and each state that has had it has put on a fantastic venue for the athletes and also the people that come to watch the athletes,” Ms Fraser said.
“Also having it in our country it helps the athletes because their parents and their friends and everyone can come and watch them compete and you know it’s a shame, it’s a damn shame that he has done this.
“I competed in Wales and that was fantastic but when I competed in Perth that was extraordinary because all the stands, everything was packed.
“We had people come from all over the country to watch all of their athletes and ’62 Perth was absolutely fantastic for me as far as the Commonwealth….or they were called the British Empire and Commonwealth Games then and I just think it’s a damn shame that Victoria has said no to it,” she said.
Ms Fraser thinks it will also make it make it harder for Australia to bid for future sporting events. Some pundits believe it could signal the end of the Commonwealth Games citing expense and relevance in a modern society.
However, Dawn Fraser isn’t sure it will be the death knell of the Games.
“I think it’s an embarrassment for the whole country.
“It certainly won’t help the future of the Commonwealth Games and I think the governing body will have to have a very big look at it and where they can hold it.
“I mean if there’s a country that is going to take it on it will probably only be a small party of the Commonwealth Games for the athletes to compete in I think that would be the way,” she said.
The fallout from Daniel Andrews’ decision has been occupying a fair bit of Ms Fraser’s time this week.
“It’s surprising the young athletes that I have been in contact with over a couple of years mentoring and things like that, how disappointed they are because they were looking forward to competing in Melbourne,” she said.