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Australia risks breaking 2018 budget by $159m

Australia could face a budget blowout of up to $159-million when the city of Gold Coast hosts the Commonwealth Games in 2018, a report said on Tuesday.

Brisbane’s Courier-Mail reported that Queensland premier Anna Bligh was warned in November, days before the city won the right to host the event, that the athletes’ village could cost much more than the planned $48.9-million.

According to a document obtained by the newspaper, Queensland’s top official for coordinating public infrastructure has estimated the village’s final cost to taxpayers is more likely to range from $120-million to $208-million.

At the upper range of $208-million, the cost overrun would come to about $159-million.

But Queensland state treasurer Andrew Fraser said the 1 338-unit village would be delivered on budget, once the government sells the apartments as student accommodation after the Games, the newspaper said.

“We make no apologies for directing the Games team to stick to its budget,” a spokesperson for Fraser said in a statement.

“The estimate for the net cost of the Commonwealth Games athletes’ village is $48-million as is published in the bid book.”

Australia was chosen as the 2018 Commonwealth Games site in November after beating out Sri Lanka’s Hambantota and Queensland hopes to bring the event off for a cost of $1.1-billion.

Gold Coast, a sub-tropical tourist hotspot that as Queensland’s second-largest city is home to more than 500 000 people, promised in its bid to provide a stark contrast to the 2010 host New Delhi.

The New Delhi Games were plagued by venue delays, shoddy construction, corruption allegations and budget overruns that saw the cost of the event treble to US$6-billion.

Australia has a long association with the Commonwealth Games, hosting the event four times — in Sydney (1938), Perth (1962), Brisbane (1982) and Melbourne (2006). The 2014 event is to be held in Glasgow in Scotland. — AFP

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