The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) has entered into an exclusive dialogue period with the state of Victoria and Commonwealth Games Australia (CGAus) to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games, with plans in place to demonstrate a “new way” to stage the multi-sport event.

As opposed to the last edition of the Commonwealth Games in Victoria, the 2006 edition which was held in Melbourne, the vision for 2026 is for the Games to be held across the state.

The CGF has been in discussions with multiple countries across the Commonwealth regarding hosting the 2026 Games, with negotiations accelerating following the launch of the organisation’s 2026/30 Strategic Roadmap in October.

The Roadmap seeks to provide future hosts and sports with the renewed flexibility to be innovative and creative in delivering the Games, at a time when the CGF has faced difficulties in securing hosts. Significantly, the CGF’s extensive overhaul of its showpiece event will also see only athletics and aquatics retained as proposed compulsory sports from its 2026 edition.

Following ongoing discussions, the CGF, Victorian Government and CGAus have signed a Heads of Agreement to formally enter an exclusive dialogue period to agree the parameters for the 2026 Commonwealth Games.

Premier Daniel Andrews and the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events, Martin Pakula, have confirmed that, if awarded, the 2026 Games would be hosted across the state.

The Government and CGAus will now develop Victoria’s 2026 Commonwealth Games Submission. The CGF said it will focus on a new way to host the Games, showing how events could be held in multiple locations across regional Victoria to showcase the best of what the state has to offer and ensure a “uniquely Victorian experience” for the athletes and spectators. The CGF will assess this submission prior to any decision being made to award the Games to Victoria.

Australia has staged the Commonwealth Games on five occasions, most recently on the Gold Coast in 2018 (pictured). CGF president, Dame Louise Martin, said in a statement: “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.

“This vision is aligned with our 2026/30 Strategic Roadmap, which has proved to be a catalyst for positive and exciting conversations on how our event will look in four years’ time. Victoria is one of the world’s greatest sporting states and there is no doubt it has the venues, infrastructure, and people to stage a world class edition of the Games.”

Andrews added: “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. 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.”

Speaking to Australian broadcaster the ABC, Andrews said some regional locations such as Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo would be “self-starters” which already have the necessary facilities to host events. However, he conceded that further infrastructure funding would be required for regional locations.

“There would need to be further investments made and that’s how I see them, not as a cost,” he said. “That infrastructure is then there as a lasting legacy.”

The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, citing sources with knowledge of the plans, said Mars Stadium in Ballarat has been discussed as the possible centrepiece of the Games, hosting athletics competitions.

The 11,000-seat stadium is a home venue for the Western Bulldogs AFL Aussie rules football team, with confectionery company Mars Wrigley this week renewing an agreement for its naming rights.

Andrews has stated that the regional focus of the 2026 bid will mean the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) will not reprise its role as the athletics venue, as it did in 2006. “There are some first-class facilities that are already there – athletics, for instance, at the upgraded but probably needs to be further upgraded Mars Stadium up in Ballarat,” he added.

The English city of Birmingham was awarded hosting rights for the 2022 Commonwealth Games back in December 2017. Birmingham replaced Durban as the host of the event. The South African city was stripped of the Games earlier in the year amid financial concerns.

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