A curious coincidence of timing. John Coates, one of the most influential IOC members of his time, will step down as President of the Australian Olympic Committee on 30 April. He will hand over the keys to his office after a 32-year tenure. At 71, the Sydney-born former rower is stepping aside as Australia begins the richest decade in its sporting history.
The announcement came in the middle of the morning on Tuesday 12 April: the state of Victoria will host the Commonwealth Games in 2026. With just over four years to go, the multi-sport event was still without a host city. In February this year, the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) entered into a “dialogue phase” with the Victorian authorities for a possible award of the 2026 edition. Not surprisingly, the choice quickly became clear.
In 2026, Victoria will offer a new version of the Commonwealth Games, the first in history with a regional dimension. The competitions will be held in four cities in the state: Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo and Gippsland. Melbourne, the capital, will host the opening ceremony.
Matt Carroll, chief executive of the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC), suggested as much shortly after Victoria was announced: “We have spoken about the green and gold runway leading into Brisbane 2032. Now to host a Commonwealth Games in 2026 is a major marker on that runway.”
The green and gold trail, Australia’s two colours, will not only pass through Victoria. Over the next decade, the country is set to host a collection of major sporting events unique in its history, if not in the history of the entire Olympic movement.
As Matt Carroll said on Tuesday 12 April: “more than 30 major global sporting events are coming to Australia across the next 10 years”.
The list will start this year with the Women’s Basketball World Cup in Sydney, the World Road Cycling Championships in Wollongong, and the T20 Cricket World Cup. It will continue in 2023 with the Women’s World Cup in football, co-hosted with New Zealand, and the World Cross Country Championships in Bathurst. In 2025, the Penrith Olympic venue in New South Wales will host the World Canoe Slalom Championships. Two years later, Australia will host the Netball World Cup.
As an added bonus, Australia has been named the preferred bidder to host the Rugby World Cups for men in 2027 and women in 2029. Barring an unlikely scenario, it will do double duty.
The secret? There are two answers. Unlike many nations, Australia is willing and determined when it comes to bidding to host a major sporting event. For the 2032 Summer Games, Queensland took the world by storm, engaging with the IOC in a “focused dialogue” at a time when other potential bidders were still in the feasibility study stage. The Australians were the first to travel to Lausanne in a delegation to meet Thomas Bach at IOC headquarters.
Australia also knows how to be opportunistic. The example of the 2026 Commonwealth Games is the latest illustration. The multi-sport event could have gone to Canada, where plans were discussed, but the authorities took one step forward and two steps back on this issue. The Australians seized their chance without much hesitation.
The other explanation is financial. The Australian government knows how to break its piggy bank to support sports projects. The Federal Minister for Sport, Richard Colbeck, reminded us of this at the end of last month: “The 2022-23 Federal Budget underlines the Government’s commitment to sport as the nation. Consistent investment in sport under the Australian Government’s National Sport Plan, Sport 2030, promotes a strong economy and healthy communities. In the coming years our country will play host to a series of international sporting events unparalleled in our history, culminating in the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Coalition Government is ensuring its ongoing support will help grow our reputation as the pre-eminent sporting host nation in the world.”
Over the next two years, the Australian Government has contributed $10.7 million (€7.4 million) towards legacy measures for the three major events in the country: the Men’s Cricket World Cup in 2022 ($4.4 million), the Women’s World Cup in 2023 ($3.1 million), and the Women’s Basketball World Cup ($2.6 million).