Victoria, Australia named regional host of 2026 Commonwealth Games

After persevering through several setbacks, the Commonwealth Games Federation CGF) has named the state of Victoria in Australia the host region for the 2026 Commonwealth Games with the Host Contract being signed Tuesday.

Victoria in Australia chosen to host regional 2026 Commonwealth Games
Victoria in Australia chosen to host regional 2026 Commonwealth Games (CGF Photo)

The Australian city had been singled out as the only candidate in February and went through intensive due diligence by the Commonwealth Games Federation, including a formal presentation in March, before the expected confirmation was made.

The large multi-sport event that is celebrated every four years will mark its 23rd edition in 2026 with as many as 72 attending nations and at least 16 initial sports on a program that could be expanded.  For the first time, the Victoria 2026 Games will be set across a regional footprint of five cities including Melbourne, Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat and Gippsland.  The Opening Ceremony will be observed at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

It will be the sixth Commonwealth Games for Australia and the second with events staged in Melbourne after that city hosted the 2006 edition.  The event was also held in Sydney in 1938, Perth in 1962, Brisbane in 1978 and the Gold Coast in 2018.

The Games are due to open March 2026 giving the organizing committee less than four years to prepare, well short of the seven years usually allotted in the process.  The CGF had originally planned to award the Games in 2019 but hit several roadblocks along the way.

Challenges for the CGF began when Durban in South Africa was elected to host the 2022 Games.  That city was stripped of the hosting rights by the CGF just months later when it missed financial milestones, leaving executives scrambling to find a replacement host.  Birmingham, then one of the 2026 candidates, was chosen as the new 2022 host in an abbreviated selection process.

With Birmingham and the rest of England now out of the 2026 race, the availability of suitable candidates was slim and the CGF missed its intended 2019 election date.  The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic further complicated matters forcing the CGF to make an unusual offer to Hamilton, Canada already preparing a bid to host the 100th anniversary of the inaugural Games first held in the same city in 1930.  The CGF gave Hamilton an exclusive offer to host the 2026 Games if it were to pivot from its sentimental 2030 plans.

Hamilton city council later rejected the offer, leaving the CGF with few other options and a window-of-preparation that was getting smaller by the day.  The ongoing health and economic crisis saw cities across Australia and the rest of the Commonwealth turn away from possible bids.

The CGF took a closer look at how the Games could be hosted with less time to prepare and at a lower cost and developed the 2026/2030 strategic roadmap.  This paved the way to a targeted dialogue with Victoria officials who could leverage legacy from the successful 2006 Games and take a regional approach to stage a cost efficient and sustainable event.

CGF President Dame Louise Martin said in a statement “Commonwealth Games Australia and the Victorian Government have set out a bold and innovative vision for hosting our major multi-sport event.

In Victoria, we believe we have found the perfect partner for the next stage of our journey.

This a very special moment for the Commonwealth Sport Family and on behalf of the entire Movement, I would like to congratulate Commonwealth Games Australia and Victoria on their successful Games submission. We now look forward to a bright future as we work together to stage a Commonwealth Games like no other.”

The 2022 Commonwealth Games will be hosted in Birmingham from July 28 to August 8.

A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. Robert Livingstone is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians.

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