By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE, Feb 16 (Reuters) – Australia’s Victoria state has been granted an exclusive negotiating period to secure hosting rights for the 2026 Commonwealth Games, officials said on Wednesday.
State capital Melbourne hosted the 2006 Commonwealth Games but premier Daniel Andrews said the 2026 edition would be focused on regional cities if the bid were successful.
“Victoria is Australia’s sporting state, and, if awarded, the 2026 Commonwealth Games would demonstrate to the world a new way to deliver the competition,” he said.
“We would hope to have the majority of events in our regional cities – to display the best of Victoria, create jobs and housing and infrastructure that will deliver for the long term.”
Australia most recently hosted the multi-sport gathering for mostly former British colonies on the Gold Coast in 2018.
The quadrennial Games have struggled to remain relevant, with four of the last five Games held in Australia or Britain.
The English city of Birmingham is due to host the 2022 edition from July 28 to Aug.8, after replacing South Africa who were stripped of them in 2017 over a lack of progress in their preparations.
Birmingham was to have hosted the 2026 Games but was asked to fast-track preparations for 2022.
Outside Australia, amanslot no other nations or cities expressed interest in taking the vacant 2026 slot.
Australian media have speculated the 92-year-old Games may be doomed if talks between the Victorian government and Commonwealth Games Australia (CGA) fail.
Australia, however, bathes in its athletes’ dominance in a relatively weak pool of nations and fans flocked to the well-organised Gold Coast Games in 2018.
Australia’s island state of Tasmania may offer a back-up solution if Victoria’s bid is unsuccessful.
Though lacking infrastructure, amanslot Australia’s smallest state wrote to CGA last week asking to be considered.
The Tasmanian government expressed surprise and disappointment over news of Victoria’s exclusive negotiation period.
“I was a little disappointed in the way Commonwealth Games Australia dealt with this,” Tasmania Premier Peter Gutwein told media on Wednesday.”The first I heard that they were exclusively dealing with Victoria was through the media.” (Additional reporting by Michael Church in Hong Kong; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Alex Richardson)