What we can expect from the first multi-city Games

Regional Melbourne and Australia’s First Peoples took center stage as the curtain fell for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

Four elders took the stage in Birmingham early on Tuesday to officially invite Victoria to the 2026 Games.

Native rapper Baker Boy, singer Vanessa Amorosi and Geelong artist Taylor Henderson joined them to present a sculpted message stick to Commonwealth Games Federation president Dame Louise Martin.

By the end of Day 9, Australia had bagged a hefty medal in Birmingham – topping the list of countries with 66 gold medals.

Now that the 2022 Games are officially over, attention is turning to Australia – more specifically to regional Victoria – with sports fanatics wondering what the next event in 2026 has in store.

Where and when?

Australian cities have hosted the Commonwealth Games five times before, including Melbourne in 2006.

But the 2026 edition will be unlike any other. It will be the first time in Games history that they will be held in multiple cities, with events planned in regional Victoria.

Details remain vague – especially as plans are still being finalized. We do know that the official opening ceremony will be at the MCG on March 17th.

But that’s where Victoria’s premier sports venue largely bends, with focus shifting to hubs in Geelong, Ballarat, Gippsland and Bendigo as the Games take place from March 17-29, 2026.

Shepparton will also be taking a look, while other towns have been invited to perform and show an interest in holding activities.

Prime Minister Daniel Andrews said it would be a “great honor” for Victoria to host the $2.6 billion 2026 Games.

“We can’t wait to welcome the world to our entire state,” he said in April.

Tight deadline

Part of the reason for the lack of clarity is that Victoria has just under four years to prepare for the final Commonwealth Games – where hosts are normally given seven years.

This is due to delays when choosing a host. It was supposed to happen as early as 2019, but the announcement was delayed, first to 2020 and then again to 2022.

With Birmingham now in full swing, Victoria 2026 CEO Jeroen Weimar and his team are busy scouting locations to see what they can learn from their UK counterparts.

Mr Weimer said on Sunday (Australian time) that his aim was to have venues “full of people”, as the Birmingham Games have been, by 2026.

“Alexander Stadium (in Birmingham) last night was absolutely pumping as it is a 30,000 capacity stadium that is completely packed. That’s what creates the atmosphere,” he said.

“We all know that when you’re in a 100,000-seat stadium and there’s 30,000 people there, it feels deadly.

“We prefer venues that are full of people who have energy, who are focused and I think that’s why the regional Games work so well.”

commonwealth games
Jeroen Weimar, CEO of Victoria 2026, has scouted the 2022 locations in Birmingham.

What sports are coming up?

Victoria 2026 has confirmed a core group of 16 sports, including six para sports.

They include T20 cricket, which is expected to be played in all four regional hubs. There is also cycling, to be organized in Gippsland and Bendigo.

Aquatics, beach volleyball, gymnastics, hockey, table tennis and triathlon will be in Geelong, while Ballarat is expected to host athletics and boxing.

In Bendigo there are lawn bowls, netball, squash and weightlifting, with rugby sevens and badminton in Gippsland.

Mr Weimar said each hub would have well-organized transport and scheduling that encouraged onlookers to spend the day in one place rather than taking long car journeys.

For example, all events in Bendigo will take place within walking distance of the CBD, while athletics and boxing in Ballarat will take place at the same Eureka Park complex.

“We will definitely focus on making the hubs work and that’s why the hub model is really important to us,” said Mr. Weimar.

“We will actively set up a transportation solution that will allow people to go to Geelong for a day and see five, six or seven world-class sports in Geelong.

“It’s not realistic for us to encourage spectators to say, ‘I’m going to play rugby sevens in the morning and then swim for an afternoon’ – that will be quite a challenge logistically for the public.”

Applications for additional sports will remain open until August 19, and Mr Weimar said about 20 international federations had expressed interest.

They include the Indian Olympic Association, which wants to add shooting and wrestling. Shooting was notably absent in Birmingham – much to India’s dismay, as it is one of the country’s strong points.

Track cycling is also among the sports that have yet to be included. However, Mr Weimar said the organizing committee remained open to discussions with the International Cycling Union.

Esports is another potential addition for 2026. It was first seen in Birmingham, with Mr Weimar and his team attending the Commonwealth Esports Championships last weekend.

He said the committee was “looking for a whole range of very different sports.”

“We see it as a really good opportunity to do something different and to continue to promote engagement in the Commonwealth, but also in sport in general,” he said.

commonwealth games
Esports made their Commonwealth Games debut in Birmingham this year.

Katie Sadleir, chief executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation, told the ABC it would conduct a review after the Birmingham Games.

“We will evaluate all options and see what the best win-win situation for the collaboration is,” she said.

“It’s not just about whether we want esports in the Games or not, it’s also about whether esports wants to be in the Games or not.”

Confirmed Core Sports for 2026

  1. Athletics and Para-athletics
  2. Water sports (swimming, paraswimming and diving)
  3. T20 cricket
  4. Badminton
  5. boxing
  6. Beach Volleybal
  7. Cycling
  8. Gymnastics
  9. Hockey
  10. Lawn bowls and para lawn bowls
  11. netball
  12. Rugby sevens
  13. Squash
  14. Table tennis and para table tennis
  15. Triathlon and Paratriathlon
  16. Weightlifting and para-powerlifting.

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