Australia’s Victoria state has been positioned to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games after officials signed an agreement with the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) and Commonwealth Games Australia (CGA) to enter “an exclusive dialogue period” aimed at vetting the bid.
The so-called Heads of Agreement gives the parties two months to fully explore and assess a potential Games in Australia and a final decision could come as early as April – ahead of the 2022 edition of the Games set to be hosted by Birmingham, England in July. The parties are likely to end the window by signing a host city contract, bringing the Commonwealth Games to Australia for the sixth time.
“Hosting Great Games is a key pillar in the Commonwealth Games Australia strategic plan and given our window for hosting the Games is 2026, we are thrilled to join the CGF in exclusive dialogue with Victoria to host the Commonwealth Games once again,” CGA President Ben Houston said.
The work is expected to move quickly as the CGF’s site selection process for 2026 has fallen well behind the intended host city election for 2019 and Victoria, if elected, will only have four years to organize. Starting a series of unfortunate events for the CGF, Durban in South Africa was stripped of the 2022 Games after missing financial milestones and Birmingham was pulled away from a 2026 bid and instead elected replacement host for 2022.
In 2020 the CGF approached Hamilton in Canada with an exclusive opportunity to host the 2026 event but government officials in Ontario declined the offer and will instead bid for 2030, the 100th anniversary of the Games that were born in that same city.
Victoria’s capital Melbourne hosted the 2006 edition of the Games and it appears the CGF intends to leverage the existing experience and facilities that will be needed to prepare in the abbreviated timeframe. Last October the CGF released its 2026/30 Strategic Roadmap to address this urgency and introduced flexibility for the host city of the Games that includes options for a broader venue footprint that will allow a regional approach to the Games.
Initial planning reveals Victoria is embracing this approach to the Games, a model that won’t even require a central Athletes’ Village – one of the most costly and time-consuming projects connected to a Games.
“Victoria is Australia’s sporting state, and, if awarded, the 2026 Commonwealth Games would demonstrate to the world a new way to deliver the competition,” Daniels said.
“We would hope to have the majority of events in our regional cities – to display the best of Victoria, create jobs and housing and infrastructure that will deliver for the long term.”
CGF President Dame Louise Martin DBE said Wednesday “We are pleased to have entered into an exclusive dialogue with Victoria and Commonwealth Games Australia to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games.
“Following months of positive discussions, it is clear that Victoria has an exciting vision for a future Games which will provide many benefits for the community whilst leaving a significant legacy for the state.”
The CGF claim that negotiations were accelerating after the release of the Strategic Roadmap in October and several Commonwealth nations were involved in discussions around hosting in 2026. Details of these discussions were never released, raising speculation that the CFG could be left without a 2026 host.
Pressure will be on the CGF to close this deal, a likely outcome, or the 2026 Games will again be at risk.
Last week the Australian State of Tasmania made a last-minute appeal to the CGA for consideration as a potential host city for the Games, but no formal work commenced. Other Australian cities including Perth and Adelaide had previously expressed interest in bidding for the Games but all later withdrew, often with concerns over costs and COVID-19 recovery.
Australia previously staged the Games in Sydney in 1938, Perth in 1962, Brisbane in 1982 and Gold Coast in 2018.