Comm Games cancellation impacts include missed opportunities for exposure and goodwill Inquiry Public Hearings told

Australia’s shooting community’s missed opportunity to bring their sport into the mainstream coverage the now cancelled Victoria 2026 Commonwealth Games would bring was a feature point of discussion in recent public hearings.

Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia Victoria (SSAA Vic) Communications Manager Barry Howlett appeared at the Select Committee on the 2026 Commonwealth Games Bid Inquiry hearings in March.

He was able to communicate that an infrastructure legacy from facility upgrades that would benefit our sport, but also the unmeasurable loss of promotion of our sport both domestically and internationally were the key negative impacts of the cancelled Games.

Importantly he was also able to highlight the significance of shooting being included in the Commonwealth Games events for 2026, as shooting is not included in the Games’ core sports list. This inclusion was ultimately achieved following a significant campaign led by Shooting Australia and supported by SSAA Vic and Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia (SSAA Inc).

Shooting has not traditionally been among the core sports included in Commonwealth Games, however it has been a sport that has been relatively constant as a part of the event. In the most recent Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, shooting was not included in the line up and the target shooting community around the world expressed outrage and disappointment. The fear among those in the target shooting fraternity was that this exclusion may ring the death knell for the future of the sport within the Commonwealth Games.

Following the announcement and planning for the Victorian 2026 Commonwealth Games, hopes were high within the global target shooting community that the sport would be on the register. Australia has a strong history of success at the sport in previous editions of the games and the opportunity for our shooters, volunteers and officials to be involved on home soil was an exciting prospect.

Victoria was announced in April of 2022 as the host state for the 2026 Commonwealth Games, but in July 2023 the Victorian state government announced it had cancelled its plans to host the games, citing an escalation in its cost projections relative to initial estimations.

At the time, Shooting Australia Chief Executive Officer Adam Sachs said:

An enormous contribution of time and effort went into Shootings’ bid to have our sport reinstated into the Commonwealth Games program. It is extremely unfortunate that this opportunity will now no longer be available to our athletes and our sport. Despite today’s news, I want to take the opportunity again, to thank Shooting Australia’s Member Organisations and the wider target shooting community for their support and contribution over the previous 18 months. Our sport will continue to benefit from this type of collaboration moving forward as we work towards the opportunities ahead of us.

Today’s announcement does not diminish the focus and support that Shooting Australia is bringing to the preparation of our athletes leading into the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and then onto Los Angeles in 2028 and a home Games in Brisbane in 2032.2.”

Subsequently, uproar among non-Labor Victorian elected members resulted in an Inquiry into the cancellation of the games being announced. The Inquiry is to investigate progress of the regional infrastructure build including the potential failures in governance, the impacts of the contract termination on Victoria, the Victorian Government advice received, the potential of undue influence by the executive, the timeline, progress and budget of the Victorian Government’s regional infrastructure and housing build and the impact on community, social, amateur, and professional sport in Victoria.

SSAA Inc made a submission to the Inquiry late last year and made the following key points:

The Commonwealth Games on home soil would promote our sport and our country around the world. The funding given to the regions to develop and improve facilities for our sport would benefit current and future generations of target shooters.  The missed opportunities created through the cancellation of this event for Victoria directly impacts the regions and the corresponding facilities that were to hold the events and our athletes who were about to compete on a global stage from their very own backyard.

 These missed opportunities extend to the development and support of those that work within the sport as coaches and officials, particularly as the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympics will need these resources down the track. Experience at an international level is key to ongoing development for these individuals and opportunities at this level of competition are few and require costly travel. In conclusion, the impact this decision will have on our sport, facilities and opportunities for growth is immeasurable in many ways. It is the potential and associated benefits of having a prestigious international level event held ‘in our own backyard’ that is now gone. Athletes and officials will no longer have this experience, new and/or improved facility upgrades will no longer occur and positive messaging that can encourage people to join our sport or create awareness and acceptance of our community will no longer eventuate. 

In his statements to the Public Hearing and subsequent questioning, Mr Howlett was also able to detail to the Committee around people’s reasons for owning and using firearms, our community’s commitment to safety and efforts to self-regulate, upskill, promote our values and be inclusive to all ages and abilities.

Also appearing at the Public Hearings was Morwell Gun Club, where some of the shooting events were planned to be held and the City of Greater Bendigo, the key council region set to host shooting events for the Commonwealth Games.

An interim report from the Select Committee is expected by April 30, 2024 and a final report is due by April 2025.


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