The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) has confirmed the 2026 Commonwealth Games will be hosted by the State of Victoria in Australia, with the bowls competition to be presented in the world-renowned city of Bendigo.

Bendigo is an historic gold mining town in central Victoria steeped in rural tradition, cultural abundance and serene imagery, yet it exudes the thriving communal buzz of a modern cosmopolitan city.

Originally a gold rush boom town, it is home to the mid-1900s Central Deborah Gold Mine, vintage ‘Talking Trams’ running through the city providing audio commentary on gold mining history, and the Golden Dragon Museum celebrating the area’s Chinese heritage through artefacts and artwork. Established in 1858, Bendigo Pottery offers pot-making workshops and ceramics displays.

In the 1880’s Bendigo was deemed the ‘richest city in the world’, with more gold found there between 1850 and 1900 than anywhere else on the planet. Majestic buildings and monuments from the golden past line the main streets offering an ever-present reminder of the riches from the goldfields.

With a collection of fine bowling venues ready to welcome visitors, Bendigo is approximately 150 km northwest of Melbourne along the Calder Freeway.

In what will be a first ever predominantly regional Commonwealth Games, Victoria 2026 will be staged in March 2026 across multiple cities and regional hubs including Melbourne, Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat and Gippsland.

The Opening Ceremony will take place at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground. The approach will showcase the best of what the State has to offer and ensure a uniquely Victorian experience for the athletes and spectators.

There will be a phased approach in creating the sports programme for Victoria 2026. An initial 16 sports have been put forward for the Games, with further sports to be added later this year.

CGF President Dame Louise Martin said: ‘The Commonwealth Games Federation is absolutely delighted to award the 2026 Commonwealth Games to Victoria. Commonwealth Games Australia and the Victorian Government have set out a bold and innovative vision 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.’

Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews said: ‘It’s a privilege and honour to have Victoria chosen as the host venue for the 2026 Commonwealth Games – we can’t wait to welcome the world to Victoria. Sport is part of the fabric of our state and regional Victoria will provide the ideal hosting environment for the 2026 Commonwealth Games.’

Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events Martin Pakula said: ‘The Commonwealth Games is a pinnacle of world sport and Victoria 2026 will bring a comprehensive sports programme to world class stadia across regional Victoria, after an Opening Ceremony on the hallowed turf of the MCG.’

Australia has staged the Commonwealth Games on five occasions, with Victoria previously playing host to the Melbourne 2006 Games; widely considered one of the most successful editions of the event in history. The country has also staged the Games in Sydney in 1938, Perth in 1962, Brisbane in 1982 and most recently Gold Coast in 2018. Victoria has also hosted the Commonwealth Youth Games in Bendigo in 2004.

The 2026 Games will be the 23rd edition of the major multi-sport competition, which first began in Hamilton, Canada in 1930. Lawn bowls has been one of the core sports since those inaugural Games, although it missed out in 1966 because Jamaica had no greens or facilities to host a bowls competition.

World Bowls chief executive Gary Smith was equally glowing, and added: ‘We are delighted with today’s announcement from the CGF, which includes the most welcome news that Lawn Bowls and Para Lawn Bowls will continue to be included in the Commonwealth Games Sports Programme in 2026.

‘Whilst the announcement will be most relevant to our Commonwealth Members, this positive news for the future of our global sport should be appreciated by all members of the bowls fraternity.’

Photo: Victorian Tourism Minister Martin Pakula (back left), State Premier Dan Andrews (back third from left) and CGF President Dame Louise Martin (back centre) pose with enthusiastic Victorian sports supporters after the announcement.