Regional Victoria announced as host of 2026 Commonwealth Games | Victoria

Victoria will host the 2026 Commonwealth Games, the premier, Daniel Andrews has announced.

The opening ceremony will be held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground while the games will largely be based in regional Victoria.

Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong and Gippsland will each host their own athlete’s village and sport programs, and Shepparton is also expected to hold sporting and cultural events.

Andrews thanked Commonwealth Games authorities for the accepting the bid, which was first to propose a predominately regional event.

“It is different,” Andrews said in Ballarat. “I’m sure from their 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 … [it’s] an opportunity like no other.”

The government will invest in community infrastructure, including housing and world-class sports facilities that Andrews said would become a “lasting legacy” and attract future events.

He said the games will contribute more than $3bn to Victoria’s economy, creating more than 600 full-time jobs before the games, 3,900 jobs during and a further 3,000 jobs after it ends.

The cost of running the event has yet to be revealed, but Andrews described it as an “investment”.

An initial 16 sports have been put forward for the event, with further sports to be added later this year.

Ballarat will host athletics and boxing; Bendigo will be home to lawn bowls, netball, squash and weightlifting; Gippsland will have badminton and cycling; and Geelong will host beach volleyball, diving, gymnastic, hockey, table tennis and triathlon events.

T20 cricket will also be played across the four regional hubs.

Commonwealth Games Federation president, Louise Martin, said Commonwealth Games Australia and the Victorian government set out a “bold and innovative vision” for the event.

“In Victoria, we believe we have found the perfect partner for the next stage of our journey,” Martin said in a statement.

“This is 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.”

Commonwealth Games Australia president, Ben Houston, said the home games will provide “immeasurable benefits” for athletes in the lead up to the 2032 Brisbane Olympic and Paralympic Games, describing them as “three home games” for athletes in six years.

Houston also pointed to upcoming international basketball, cycling, football and rugby events being hosted in Australia.

“It will be a ‘green and gold’ festival for a decade,” Houston said.

The Australian Olympic Committee chief executive, Matt Carroll, agreed.

“With Brisbane hosting the 2032 Olympic Games, we now have a second major home Games in prospect,” Carroll said. “The Olympic and Commonwealth Games share so many member sports.”

Victoria’s opposition leader, Matthew Guy, said hosting the Commonwealth Games outside Melbourne is “outstanding” for the regional parts of the state.

“The whole concept, the whole initiative has the support of the Liberal and National parties” he said.

“The Commonwealth Games is a great idea for country and regional Victoria. It’s one I’m pleased to say has bipartisan support.”

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The announcement comes after reports the Commonwealth Games Federation was struggling to find a host for the 2026 games.

D​​urban, South Africa, was stripped of the right to stage the 2022 Commonwealth Games due to financial issues and was replaced by Birmingham, England, which was originally scheduled as 2026 host, leaving a vacancy.

Perth withdrew from the process earlier this year, with the Western Australian government citing the uncertainty posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and at least $1bn of investment required to establish the required infrastructure. Kuala Lumpur, Cardiff, Calgary, Edmonton and Adelaide had all earlier withdrawn from proposed bids.

Tasmania formally requested Hobart and Launceston be considered as host or co-host for the event but they were unsuccessful.

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