The group seeking to bring the Commonwealth Games to Hamilton has formally abandoned its bid for the 2026 edition and will return its focus to the centenary Games in 2030.
It leaves with Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) with no clear bidder for the 2026 edition of its flagship event and is a significant blow.
Louis Frappoti, chairman of the Hamilton 2026 Bid Committee, said it was left with "no choice" but to pull out of the running after failing to gain the support of the Ontario Government.
The CGF had encouraged Frappoti's team to switch their efforts to 2026 when it became clear there was an opening for Hamilton to effectively run unopposed.
Hamilton was Commonwealth Sport Canada's (CSC) preferred candidate and the CGF began "working exclusively" with CSC in August 2019 over the 2026 Games.
But Frapporti confirmed the Bid Committee will now return to its original plan of looking to secure the rights to host the 2030 Games, which would mark 100 years since the event was held for the first time in the city. due to a lack of Government backing.
"We felt we really had no choice but to return back to the initial focus which we had, a 2030 centenary bid," Frapporti told Global News.
Should Hamilton have staged the 2026 Games, it is likely the event would have been scaled down with fewer athletes and venues because of a lack of preparation time.
But with Hamilton now focusing on preparing a bid for 2030, Frapporti is determined to put on a big show.
"There’s going to be clearly a much larger sport programme, more athletes, more spectators, more culture and celebration because it’s the 100th anniversary," said Frapporti.
Last October, Hamilton Member of Provincial Parliament Donna Skelly claimed that Ontario was instead focused on Toronto becoming a host city for the 2026 FIFA World Cup being staged in Canada, Mexico and the United States.
Skelly said that the costs associated with two major international sports events in one summer would be too much of a financial strain on Ontario, especially following the impact of coronavirus.
Toronto is the largest city in the province of Ontario.
It was suggested that the Ontario Government could be prepared to support hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2027 but it was unlikely to receive the backing of the CGF, which ordinarily stages the event every four years.
Hamilton 2026 President PJ Mercanti admitted the coronavirus pandemic had also taken the wind out of the bid's sails.
"No doubt the the second wave and now more recent third wave of the pandemic kind of got in the way of a lot of the momentum that was being built and affected the efficiency and speed of some Government responses," Mercanti told Global News.
Frapporti expects the cost of the 2030 bid to be "materially more" than the one for 2026, with the Bid Committee reportedly looking to finalise its plans within the next few weeks.
"The end result of that, we hope, would be a final multi-party agreement and a final bid for submission internationally to the Federation for its consideration," added Frapporti.
With Hamilton’s bid for 2026 falling through, there has been a suggestion that another Canadian former host, Victoria, could look step in.
In February, David Black, chair of the Victoria B.C. Commonwealth Games bid team, said British Columbia could benefit from hosting the multi-sport event as it attempts to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Black failed to get Government backing for a previous bid for the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
India, Sri Lanka and Australia have also previously expressed an interest in staging the 2026 Games.
A CGF spokesperson told insidethegames: "The CGF continues to work closely with Commonwealth Sport Canada (CSC) with a view to bringing the Commonwealth Games to the country in the future.
"Positive dialogue is ongoing regarding Victoria’s interest in hosting the 2026 Games, while we were pleased to note the continued aspiration of Hamilton to host the 2030 edition of the event.
"Beyond Canada, the CGF remains in discussions with multiple CGAs and cities interested in the 2026 and 2030 Commonwealth Games."
Birmingham in England is set to host the next Commonwealth Games, scheduled to run from July 28 to August 8 next year.