Belfast Telegraph

Wales out of the running to stage 2026 Commonwealth Games amid Brexit fears

Economic uncertainty following Britain's decision to leave the European Union has seen Wales bin plans to stage the 2026 Commonwealth Games, officials said.

The country's economy minister Ken Skates said the Welsh Government will not be bidding to host the international sporting event, which last came to Wales in 1958.

Opposition parties in the Welsh Assembly panned the decision - with the leader of the Welsh Conservatives calling the ruling Labour Party "pathetic".

However, Mr Skates insisted rising costs and the economic fallout from the the UK's decision to leave the EU meant a Wales bid was not financially viable.

He said: "A feasibility study.....sets out total projected costs for a Wales bid of between £1.32bn and £1.54bn.

"Such costs would involve a huge additional financial commitment from Welsh Government over three Assembly terms.

"Given the high cost and the current funding uncertainty following the vote to leave the EU, we have reluctantly concluded that the bid for the 2026 Commonwealth Games is not feasible."

Scotland was the last home nation to host the Commonwealth Games in 2014 - and an official report estimated the Glasgow-based event was worth £740 million to the economy.

There have been been growing calls in recent times for Wales to put its name forward for the games, with Paralympic legend Tanni Grey-Thompson lending her support.

Mr Skates said over the past four years the Welsh Government - along with other sports bodies in Wales - had undertaken "in-depth work" looking at whether a 2026 bid was viable.

He added that despite the decision not to put Wales's name into the hat, officials' work had not been wasted.

He said: "It has highlighted the need for us to undertake a review of sports facilities in Wales with a view to increasing our spread of world class venues.

"Such venues would benefit the local community and the elite athlete, whilst also increasing our capacity to host major events.

"We have some big sporting events to look forward to, with the Uefa Champions League final being held in Cardiff next year and the Volvo Ocean Race coming to Wales in 2018.

"We will continue to work to attract further high profile sporting and cultural events to Wales."

Commonwealth Games Wales, which had worked on the feasibility study, said it was disappointed by the decision.

Chairwoman Helen Phillips said: "A lot of hard work has gone into preparing what was a full and detailed review of feasibility which would have led to a compelling bid.

"Despite this decision, we hope that some of the planned benefits for the whole of Wales can still be achieved under an Active Wales vision and that the work that has been conducted will be used to inform a bid in future cycles."

However, Ms Phillips said the organisation fully understood ministers' reasons given the recent economic uncertainty.

But Plaid Cymru - the second largest party in the Welsh Assembly - lambasted the Welsh Government's decision and added it was further proof of the Labour administration's lack of ambition.

Shadow economy secretary Adam Price said: "Rather than show resilience and send a clear message that Wales can weather the Brexit storm, the Labour Government seems to be resigning to the fact that the challenges facing our economy are insurmountable.

"If anything, the UK's decision to leave the European Union should be an incentive, not a deterrent, to taking bold steps to attract new investment to Wales."

And Welsh Tory leader Andrew RT Davies, who had also supported a bid, was also angry at the decision.

He said: "It's pathetic the Welsh Government is once again attempting to use Brexit as a smokescreen to disguise a lack of ambition and imagination.

"Having jumped on the bandwagon of Welsh sporting success over the summer the Welsh Labour Government is now abandoning the stage.

"Clearly a bid would have come at great cost, but over the extended period the economic, social and sporting benefits to Wales would have been huge.

"This is a sad day for Welsh sport."