A total of five cities and regions are set to play a role in the 2026 Commonwealth Games after Australian state Victoria was today officially confirmed as the host.
The announcement followed a successful exclusive dialogue period launched in February between the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), Commonwealth Games Australia and Victoria, where a proposal to stage the major multi-sport competition across the state was agreed.
In what will be a first-ever predominantly regional Commonwealth Games, Victoria 2026 will be staged in March of that year in multiple cities including Melbourne, Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat and Gippsland.
The Opening Ceremony, as first reported on insidethegames last month, will take place at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), it was confirmed at a launch attended by CGF President Dame Louise Martin and Daniel Andrews, the Premier of Victoria.
The approach will showcase the best of what the state has to offer and ensure a uniquely Victorian experience for the athletes and spectators, it is claimed.
An initial 16 sports have been put forward for the Games, including T20 cricket, a figure which could increase by up to seven when the final programme is announced at the end of this year.
Along with cricket, swimming and diving, athletics, badminton, boxing, beach volleyball, cycling, gymnastics, hockey, lawn bowls, netball, rugby sevens, squash, table tennis, triathlon and weightlifting are the first group of sports to be confirmed on the programme for Victoria 2026.
Swimming, athletics, lawn bowls, table tennis and triathlon will host Para sports, while powerlifting will also be included.
Official confirmation that Victoria will follow Birmingham 2022 as the next host will be a massive relief for CGF officials, who had been struggling to find somewhere to stage the Games.
They have hailed the 2026/30 Strategic Roadmap, which provides renewed flexibility to be innovative and creative in delivering the Games, as having persuaded Victoria to step in.
"The Commonwealth Games Federation is absolutely delighted to award the 2026 Commonwealth Games to Victoria," Dame Louise said.
"Commonwealth Games Australia and the Victorian Government have set out a bold and innovative vision that provides an exciting new blueprint 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."
Currently, Melbourne, which hosted the 2006 Commonwealth Games, is scheduled only to stage the Opening Ceremony.
Geelong, Victoriaís second-largest city behind Melbourne, is currently scheduled to host seven sports, including swimming and diving at the GMHBA Stadium, which recently underwent a multi-million-dollar investment, including the open-air swimming pool.
The port city is also due to host beach volleyball, gymnastics, hockey, table tennis and triathlon.
Geelong is also set to stage T20 cricket along with Ballarat, Bendigo and Gippsland.
It is currently not clear whether cricket will be contested by both genders and, whether like Birmingham 2022, there will be only a womenís tournament.