EXCLUSIVE: Gina Rinehart’s bid to rescue Commonwealth Games backed by Aussie athletics champions

Article by Zachary Gates, courtesy of Channel 9 Wide World of sports.

The push to have the 2026 Commonwealth Games co-costed by the Gold Coast and Perth has received the backing of Australian athletics champions Jessica Stenson and Stewart McSweyn, after billionaire Gina Rinehart supported the bid in a letter delivered to Anthony Albanese.

Three months after Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate and Perth Mayor Basil Zempilas outlined their plan for the Queensland and Western Australian cities to salvage the Commonwealth Games following the Victorian government’s abandonment, a letter signed by Tate, Zempilas and Rinehart has been sent to the prime minister.

The letter describes the Victorian government’s dumping of the 2026 event as “disappointing” and “a huge blow to Australia’s reputation and our athletes”.

It also says the Gold Coast and Perth “stand ready” to co-host the Games because of their “world-class pre-existing facilities and warm hospitality”, before noting that the 2030 FIFA World Cup will be co-hosted by Morocco, Portugal and Spain.

The letter delivered to Albanese describes the co-hosting concept as “a coast-to-coast Games”.

Stenson, the 2022 Commonwealth Games women’s marathon champion, and McSweyn, an Olympic and Commonwealth Games distance runner, threw support behind the plan in interviews with Wide World of Sports.

“One of the main disappointments I have with the Commonwealth Games potentially ending is the legacy it leaves and the impact it has on the families and younger athletes coming through,” Stenson told Wide World of Sports.

“Having witnessed the Commonwealth Games as a junior athlete, I know how much that inspired me to have a go and try to take my sport further.

“So at least this dual-city set-up would expose more families and young people to the events and the athletes.

“That was one of the exciting things about the regional Victoria Games; we were going to have multiple cities involved and giving a lot of kids and families that exposure.

“Obviously there won’t be the regional factor [with the Gold Coast and Perth co-hosting], but it would certainly give people on both sides of the country the opportunity to be involved and watch.”

Stenson said watching former Australian distance runners Craig Mottram and Kerryn McCann compete live at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games of 2006 fuelled her desire to wear the green and gold.

“Whether you actually get to do that or not, having that dream encourages you to be active, and the lifestyle choices that come with that dream are really good … so I think any event that promotes that is fantastic,” Stenson added.

Australia's Jessica Stenson celebrates winning gold in the women's marathon at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. (Alastair Grant/AP)

When the 2026 Games were cancelled in July, then-Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said the decision to axe the event was not difficult because estimated costs had ballooned from $2.6 billion to as much as $7 billion.

The letter delivered to Albanese, signed by Tate, Zempilas and Rinehart, says the co-hosting plan would give the prime minister “an excellent background” for accommodating heads of the Commonwealth.

It also takes aim at Albanese’s promised $600 million commitment to Papua New Guinea in its bid to join the NRL.

McSweyn spoke of passion for sport in Queensland and Western Australia, underscored the significance of Australia hosting international sporting events and threw forward to the Olympic Games of Brisbane 2032.

“Obviously they’re both big sporting states … so I’m sure there’d be great support for the event. I’m sure they’d pack out in both states,” McSweyn told Wide World of Sports.

“I think if we can find a way to have it in Australia, that’s amazing, because we don’t want to lose a major event here.

 

Australian running ace Stewart McSweyn pictured at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, held on the Gold Coast. (Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

“We saw with 2006 Melbourne and 2018 Gold Coast, they’re great events.

“Other athletes are hoping to be there in 2032 for the Brisbane Olympics, so it’s a stepping stone up towards there, as well, so it gives athletes a bit to motivate them across the years leading up, including the younger ones coming through for 2032.”

Rinehart did not indicate any financial commitment in the letter delivered to Albanese, but she is Australia’s richest person.

She’s injected an eyewatering sum of money into Australian swimming, artistic swimming, rowing and volleyball.

“I think it’s huge,” McSweyn said of Rinehart’s passion for the Commonwealth Games.

“Obviously she has a fair bit of pull.

“Any support behind having majors is great.”

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