Want to watch Victoria’s Commonwealth Games? Pack your car for a day trip

Key points

  • Chief executive officer of the 2026 Commonwealth Games Jeroen Weimar said his biggest challenge would be making a five games city model work.
  • The 2026 Commonwealth Games has a $2.6 billion budget. 
  • Organisers expect 70 per cent of the tickets to the games to be sold to Victorians with the remaining 30 per cent to interstate and international visitors.

Spectators attending Victoria’s 2026 Commonwealth Games will be encouraged to stay in Melbourne and take day trips to regional cities in response a shortage of accommodation and limited public transport.

In a first-of-its-kind decentralised approach, and in contrast to the Melbourne 2006 Games, four regional hubs – Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat and Morwell – will largely host the March 2026 event.

Organisers expect fans to travel from Melbourne – or from other country areas – to the regional games’ hubs each day.

Chief executive officer of the 2026 Commonwealth Games Jeroen Weimar told a Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry lunch on Friday that his biggest challenge was making the five-games city model work.

“We know that the regional accommodation offer isn’t that deep. We know we have limited hotel spaces in all of our core regional cities,” he said.

Weimar said he wanted to see locals from Bendigo, Ballarat, Geelong and Morwell attending events in their hometowns and visitors from Melbourne attending games events and other regional attractions like art galleries and festivals before returning in the evening.

Jeroen Weimar speaking at the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry lunch. Credit:Luise Enrique Ascui

“I’d rather give people a day out rather than ‘here’s a ticket for one event, one session’ and then leave you to your own devices,” he said. “We’ll work with existing tourist attractions on how we package those things up.”

Weimar said spectators and athletes would need to move in and out of Melbourne rather than between regional cities, because of the nature of the state’s radial public transport system.

“One thing we’re not going to encourage is building a completely separate network to connect Ballarat to Bendigo, or Shepparton to Geelong,” he said.

“We’re going to be very clear with people, Morwell is a bloody long way away from Bendigo.

“We’re not going to run a world whereby I’m going to go to rugby sevens in Morwell in the morning and then pop over to watch a bit of netball in the afternoon in Bendigo.”

Weimar said extra trains and buses would operate to and from Melbourne and schemes such as park and ride would be used within the towns.

Organisers expect 70 per cent of the tickets to the Games to be sold to Victorians, with the remaining 30 per cent to interstate and international visitors.

Another challenge will be recruiting the tens of thousands of workers needed to put on the games.

“It would be disappointing if we ended up shipping people in from overseas to do these jobs,” Weimar said.

Competitors will be housed in athletes villages in each regional city, which Weimar told The Age would be built in Waurn Ponds next to the train station, at English Street in Morwell, at the saleyards site in Ballarat, and Flora Hill in Bendigo – the former La Trobe University site.

He conceded that building 7000 residential units across the athletes villages in three years was a tight timeframe, but said it was also “not that complex” for Victoria’s construction industry.

Weimar said regional cities were “crying out for” key worker accommodation, which the athletes villages would be used for after the games.

Weimar said he was confident the games $2.6 billion budget would be enough to stage a successful event however additional funds would need to be raised from sponsorship and ticket sales, for which organisers have confidential revenue targets.

He said he was drawing on his logistical experience as Victoria’s COVID commander and running the state’s public transport system in his new role, but organising the Commonwealth Games was “a lot more fun”.

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