Regional cities overlooked to host events during the 2026 Commonwealth Games have expressed disappointment and frustration with yesterday’s announcement.
- Smaller regional Victorian cities say they feel snubbed by the announcement that only large centers will host athlete’s villages and events for the 2026 Games
- Greater Shepparton led the bid for the Games but was not selected as a hub
- Towns struggling with bushfire and pandemic recovery say it is a missed opportunity
The Victorian government won the bid to host the Games, with regional hubs and athletes’ villages to be set up in Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat and Gippsland.
It was an announcement that left community leaders and athletes in some regions, including Greater Shepparton, lost for words.
“Honestly I was very surprised that Shepparton, being such an important regional center in Victoria, was left out,” Commonwealth Games gold medalist Bruce Quick said.
The sports shooter and former Shepparton resident who now lives in Holbrook, just north of the NSW-Victorian border, holds the record for the most Commonwealth Games an Australian has competed in.
He has competed in seven Games, winning 14 medals, including one gold.
Mr Quick said when it came to sports shooting, Shepparton was an ideal place to host the event.
“It already has good shotgun, rifle and pistol facilities.
“[Shepparton] deserved to be recognized as a sporting hub with [its] great sporting history and representation in Olympic and Commonwealth Games teams over the past 50 years.”
Driving force ‘snubbed’
It has been five years since the launch of the Commonwealth Games bid, which was led by Greater Shepparton City Council.
Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed said the city was a “driving force” behind the initiative to bring the games to the regions.
She said it was disappointing it was not listed as a major hub.
“Greater Shepparton City Council really took it up and got on board and ran with it, with a view of it being events right across Victoria.”
The town will host sporting and cultural events, but finer details are yet to be released.
“We saw it very much as an opportunity to develop facilities in some of our other regional cities, not just Shepparton,” Ms Sheed said.
“It’s about bettering our sporting facilities and also what we can offer as a city to those who come.
“Having games like this does create those opportunities for more buildings, for more temporary housing that can be turned into permanent housing.”
Shepparton was subject to tough lockdowns during the pandemic, with most of the business community forced to close as a result of isolation requirements.
It is still recovering along with places in north-east Victoria that suffered impacts of the Black Summer bushfires, quickly followed by border closures.
The Commonwealth Games decision has been labeled a missed opportunity to stimulate the economy of those towns struggling to get back on their feet.
Commonwealth Games Australia chief executive Craig Phillips said the committee would keep the recovering towns in mind during future planning.
“From our point of view, it’s encouraging that people want the games to come to their communities,” he said.
“If there are ways that the government thinks we can [support communities recovering] and it’s viable then we will look at it.”
Mildura Mayor Liam Wood said the region was often forgotten.
“We’re known as a resilient community up here but it’s just not good enough,” he said.
Mr Phillips said more sports and venues would be announced later in the year but he would not indicate where.
“We hope that over time, as things develop, people will see that there is a way of being involved and a way of being part of the celebrations of the games,” he said.
Warrnambool Mayor Vicki Jellie said the city planned to “work hard” to show what it was capable of.
“We’ll have to … do a bit of lobbying so the state government can see what else we can do,” she said.
Wangaratta chief executive Brendan McGrath said he would also turn the attention to what other sports could be included in the games, with hopes to get a look in.
“I think there’s still plenty of opportunities to bring some people to the region and let them see some things that they don’t get to see on a day-to-day basis,” he said.
The likes of clay target shooting, mountain biking and basketball have been suggested.