Sports

Australia’s Victoria to spread 2026 Commonwealth Games far and wide


The Australian state of Victoria will host the 2026 Commonwealth Games across four regional hubs in a break from the traditional single-city model, the government said on Tuesday.

With no other countries outside Australia making a bid, Victoria was granted an exclusive negotiating period to secure the event in February.

“It’s a great honor to have Victoria chosen as the host venue for the 2026 Commonwealth Games — we can’t wait to welcome the world to all of our state,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said.

Melbourne, the state capital, hosted the 2006 Games and will stage the 2026 opening ceremony at Melbourne Cricket Ground, but the sports will be spread far and wide.

Each of the regional hubs in Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo and Gippsland will have their own athletes’ village.

Geelong, a port city an hour southwest of Melbourne, will host swimming, gymnastics, beach volleyball and other sports.

Ballarat and Bendigo, gold-field cities in central Victoria, will have athletics, boxing, netball, squash and weightlifting.

The Gippsland region in eastern Victoria will have rugby sevens, badminton and cycling.

Twenty20 cricket has also been included in a core group of 16 sports.

Other sports may yet be added to the program, which could mean other locations hosting events, the government said.

“It is different,” Andrews told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday. “I’m sure from (Commonwealth Games authorities’) point of view, it’s a bit riskier than just running it in the middle of a large city.

“But to do this and to do it well — and we will — there’s an opportunity here … an opportunity like no other.”

The quadrennial games, a multi-sport gathering for mostly former British colonies, has struggled to remain relevant, with four of the last five editions held in Australia or Great Britain.

Australia, however, relishes its athletes’ dominance in a relatively weak pool of nations, and fans flocked to the well-organized Gold Coast Games in 2018.

Victoria will be used as a “runway” for the 2032 Brisbane Olympics.

“We now have a second major home games in prospect,” said Australian Olympic Committee chief Matt Carroll.

“Commonwealth Games in 2026 is a major marker on that runway.”

Victoria estimated the games would contribute more than 3 billion Australian dollars ($2.22 billion) to its economy and create thousands of jobs.

The New Zealand Olympic Committee congratulated Victoria.

“Bringing the 2026 Commonwealth Games to Victoria is fantastic news for New Zealand,” the NZOC said in a statement.

“New Zealand athletes will have a home advantage with better travel, training and performance opportunities, and only a quick flight for friends, whanau (family) and fans to support the team on the ground.”

England’s Birmingham will host the 2022 Commonwealth Games from July 28 to Aug. 8, having replaced South Africa, which was stripped of them in 2017 over a lack of progress in preparations.

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