Billions for regional sport as Victoria gears up for the Games

Key points

  • $2.6 billion will be spent preparing for the 2026 Commonwealth Games.
  • Extra $111 million will be spent on tourism and support events.
  • Government expects Games will contribute more than $3 billion to the Victorian economy.

A total of $2.6 billion will be spent preparing for the 2026 Commonwealth Games which, for the first time in the event’s history, will be held across four regions.

Athlete hubs will be established in Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat and Gippsland, with the government hopeful that modern sports infrastructure and housing will leave a legacy for regional Victorians for decades to come.

Melbourne hosted the Commonwealth Games in 2006. In 2026 the honour will be shared among four regional hubs.Credit:Andrew Gorrie

Shepparton will also host sporting and cultural events and other regional cities and towns are invited to register their interest in holding activities. An extra $111 million will be spent on tourism and support events.

Regional Development Minister Mary-Anne Thomas said it was expected the Games would contribute more than $3 billion to the Victorian economy. The government estimates more than 7500 jobs will be created before, during and after the event.

“The Games will deliver more housing and other legacy infrastructure that will really boost regional and rural Victoria for decades to come,” Thomas said.

Planning for competition venue facilities was underway, according to the budget papers, but details were very scant.

“The government is currently undertaking further scoping and due diligence of the proposed competition venues,” the budget papers say. “Additional sports and competition venues in regional Victoria, outside of the four hubs, are under consideration.”

Asked for a breakdown on how much each regional city will receive out of the $2.6 billion, Thomas said: “I’ll be able to unpack some of that detail at a later date.”

The budget papers say costs may be updated to reflect the final athletic program for Victoria in 2026.

But asked if there would be any further spending beyond the $2.6 billion, Thomas said: “It is my anticipation that this is the commitment.”

The Games are likely to be held in March to avoid significant clashes with the AFL season.

The state opposition and regional mayors have previously welcomed the opportunity to host the Games and said the event would be a chance to show the world what Victoria had to offer.

In February Premier Daniel Andrews said Mars Stadium in Ballarat could play host to some of the world’s leading athletes, including Jamaican sprinters, Kenyan long-distance runners and Australian stars of track and field.

“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 said at the time.

The finish of the Olympic Games eights final on Lake Wendouree in 1956. The US won from Canada and Australia. Credit:The Age

The Victorian government is keen to use existing facilities where possible to minimise costs and concentrate spending on additional supporting infrastructure.

Ballarat mayor Daniel Maloney said in February that Mars Stadium could not host the opening and closing ceremonies and that Geelong was the only regional city capable of putting on those shows.

When Ballarat hosted rowing on Lake Wendouree at the 1956 Olympics, he said, it inspired generations of local rowers to strive to compete at an international level.

Having the Commonwealth Games in the Ballarat in 2026 could bring similar results, Maloney said.

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