Regional Victorian residents could be given priority access to tickets for the 2026 Commonwealth Games in an effort to match the sellout events in Birmingham, which have drawn record crowds to the industrial city.
Organisers in England opened up a ticket ballot to residents of the West Midlands postcodes before the rest of the country more than a year out from the Games, giving locals the first chance at tickets.
The crowds in Birmingham have set a UK attendance record for the Commonwealth Games.Credit:Getty Images
More than 1.4 million tickets have been sold, breaking the UK Games attendance record set at Glasgow in 2014 .
Victoria’s plan of hosting up to 21 sports across four regional hubs – Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo and Gippsland – will deliver a new model for Games organisers to allow more countries the chance of hosting events without having to make massive economic investments in building new venues.
It could result in small countries, such as in the Pacific and Africa, hosting one or more competitions in the future.
Victoria 2026 chief executive Jeroen Weimar has led a team, including police and tourism officials, to the Games to look at all aspects of the logistics.
“The ticketing approach they used here [gave] preferential access for people living in the West Midlands … where they got first dibs on a whole bunch of tickets,” Weimar said.
“And we’re seeing that in terms of venues … all of the ones I’ve been to have pretty much sold out. A lot of local residents took on volunteering roles here, and they’re all going to all the events. They’re really engaged.”
Weimar said the committee was yet to decide how it would allocate tickets, but organisers would plan with local communities, schools and sporting clubs to keep them engaged in the process.
Organisers are still planning seating capacity for the regional events, but Weimar said the sports-loving public, especially in regional Victoria, gave him confidence the next Games could match the atmosphere created in Birmingham.
Organisers are also in discussions with Australia’s football codes and Formula 1 to avoid clashes with the Games, which will be held from March 17 to 29, 2026, around the time the AFL men’s season begins and the Australian Grand Prix is usually held.
The government is considering adjusting school term dates in Victoria – particularly in regional areas – to ensure schoolchildren can be part of the celebrations.
Geelong will host swimming in a new aquatic centre, as well as diving, triathlon, table tennis, hockey, gymnastics and beach volleyball.
Ballarat’s Eureka Stadium will be upgraded for track and field, and the city will also host boxing. Bendigo will host cycling, lawn bowls, weightlifting, squash, and netball. Gippsland will play host to rugby sevens.
Cycling road races and time trials are likely to be held in northern Victoria, taking in the High Country as well as parts of the Goulburn Valley.
Weimar told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald he expected an additional three or four sports would be added to the program for Victoria, with a final decision to be made by October this year.
Shooting – which has been dumped from previous Games – is pushing to make a return. Archery, surf lifesaving, surfing, skateboarding, dragon boat racing, and e-games are among the 30 sports that have applied to be considered.
Games organisers hope to add men’s Twenty20 cricket to the competition, but it is unclear whether a hectic international schedule would allow for a top-flight competition.
“Having spoken to the ICC [International Cricket Council] and some of the other sporting codes in the last few days, for them, it is all about creating that atmosphere,” Weimar said.
India, with a population of 1.4 billion, is now the biggest television and online audience for the Games. The Indian federation had threatened to boycott Birmingham after shooting was dropped from the program .
Shooting supplied 16 of India’s 66 medals at the 2018 Gold Coast Games, where they also topped the medals tally in wrestling.
Games chiefs are also pushing to provide more qualifying slots for competitors from smaller countries to be able to compete in Victoria, such as from Pacific and African nations.
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