Would the Commonwealth Games athletics track have even fit into Eureka Stadium?
Among other revelations from previously secret planning documents, the scale of the works needed at the stadium is staggering.
The report, from 2022 after the Games were announced but before final venues and details were locked in, shows how much changed as the government raced to prepare.
The Games were finally cancelled in July, with the state government blaming a $4 billion jump in expected costs.
Reading the early planning documents, it's clear to see how this could have happened, even before adding accommodation and operating costs.
"Note it is unlikely (an athletics) track will align to the existing seating bowl of Mars (Eureka) Stadium due to width of the track," the appendix document from consultant partnership DHW Ludus state.
"In order to fit, it is likely to require a track layout that does not align to the existing seating bowl, with the track extending outside the current oval footprint towards the showground precinct."
Massive earthworks would have been required for temporary seating, with brand new infrastructure like the new stadium toilet block and entrance to be demolished.
"To facilitate installation of temporary seating is likely to require the removal of the earth berm at the southern end of the ground, the demolition of the current concession outlet, relocation of light pole and use of area outside boundary (showgrounds)," the report states.
"Can the athletics program actually be accommodated in the precinct given the site limitations?"
More detailed infrastructure draft designs included in the appendices show the athletics track bulging out to the south of the stadium, plus "(t)here is the possibility to demolish existing northern grandstands and club" - would that imply rebuilding them from scratch?
Perhaps even worse is the draft transport plan, which emphasised a "(h)igh priority placed on the efficient use of public transport making better use of existing road and rail, shifting more journeys onto rail", but eventually, the state government decided not to pursue a new events platform over the road from the stadium.
There were several unknowns at the Ballarat Sports and Events Centre, also known as Selkirk Stadium, which would have hosted the boxing - the level of lighting wasn't clear when the initial document was prepared, and it's noted the actual boxing ring would have been a "tight fit" in the main showcourt.
Eastern Oval was selected as one of four venues for twenty20 cricket, a sport that was eventually dropped from the program.
Interestingly, Ballarat was initially selected to host a BMX event - which was eventually shunted to Shepparton for its Commonwealth Games debut - but it seems the contractors weren't aware of the Sebastopol BMX track.
REMEMBER WHEN IT WAS ALL ANNOUNCED IN 2022?
Instead, a "pop-up" temporary track was proposed, with wooden ramps and space for 2500 spectators, based on the Tokyo Olympics, and it was "assumed" a site would be found.
Similarly, while mountain biking was eventually announced for Creswick, at its new world-class trails facility that's still under construction, Buninyong was the first choice for DHW Ludus.
"It is unknown at this stage if a suitable site and course can be developed in Buninyong, with a specific site having to be identified," the document states.
These early drafts clearly show a government scrambling for answers after biting off more than it could chew, even in Ballarat with its established sporting infrastructure.
This without even mentioning the challenge of preparing the former Delacombe saleyards site for a temporary Games village.
The obscene cost of each of the projects, which ended up far higher than anticipated - and led to the Games' cancellation - screams out that a lot more work was going to be required than what was let on in shiny government announcements.
Even if there was enough cash and the cost of pretty much everything wasn't exploding, was there even enough time to safely complete all these projects before the opening ceremony in March 2026?
There must be questions asked about why the state government overcommitted to hosting the event at the same time it was plotting its 2022 re-election campaign.
One of the big concerns in Ballarat was always the lack of communication - off the record, The Courier was told stakeholders were working furiously to get the planning right, but you wouldn't know it from official announcements.
It explains why councils are rightfully angry that hundreds of hours of work went to waste, especially if they were forced to come up with ways to help get things off the ground.
Based on what appears to be "back-of-the-napkin" planning - an athletics track that won't fit in an oval and a pop-up BMX track when Sebastopol already has one - the amount of wasted time, for everyone, is truly awe-inspiring.
Good luck to whichever lucky city, or regional cities, hosts the Games in future.
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