Thursday, April 18, 2024

Squash gets the green (and gold) light as 2026 Commonwealth Games confirmed for Australian state of Victoria

Squash Oz celebrates as Bendigo is chosen as Games venue
By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor

Many squash federations breathed a collective sigh of relief this week when it was announced that the sport would continue to feature in the 2026 Commonwealth Games which will be held across multiple sites in the Australian state of Victoria.

Back in October, the Commonwealth Games Federation announced a new look for the competition after this year’s event in Birmingham, with athletics and swimming the only two core sports guaranteed to feature in the schedule.

Squash has been a core sport since first appearing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 1998, with the tournament taking place at what is now the Nicol David National Centre in Kuala Lumpur.

It has been successfully staged in the UK in Manchester in 2002 and in Glasgow in 2014. In between came editions in Melbourne (2006) and Delhi (2010), with Gold Coast following in 2018 and Birmingham set to host the Games this summer.

Squash Australia was delighted to confirm this week’s news that the 2026 Games will return to Victoria. The announcement was made by Commonwealth Games Australia (CGA) and the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), with squash named as one of the 16 core sports.

Squash in Australia saw first hand the benefits a home Games offered the sport in 2018 on the Gold Coast, with Australia winning two gold and a bronze medal that inspired more people to get involved.

Squash Australia CEO, Robert Donaghue, said this week’s announcement is exciting news for all sports fans, especially the squash community.

He said: “Our squash community is thrilled that the 2026 Commonwealth Games will return to Melbourne, and that squash is part of the core program of sports.

“The recent home Games on the Gold Coast afforded our sport so many great opportunities and we look forward to once again creating strong legacy opportunities to attract new people to squash.

“Today’s news is an added boost for our athletes as they continue to put the final touches on their Birmingham Commonwealth Games preparations, that are just over 100 days to go.”

The influential Inside The Games website reported: 

“A total of five cities and regions are set to play a role in the 2026 Commonwealth Games after Australian state Victoria was today officially confirmed as the host.

“The announcement followed a successful exclusive dialogue period launched in February between the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), Commonwealth Games Australia and Victoria, where a proposal to stage the major multi-sport competition across the state was agreed.

“In what will be a first-ever predominantly regional Commonwealth Games, Victoria 2026 will be staged in March of that year in multiple cities including Melbourne, Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat and Gippsland.

“The Opening Ceremony, as first reported on insidethegames last month, will take place at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).” Full report here

Sarah Fitz-Gerald, former world number one, Commonwealth Games gold medalist and current President of Squash and Racquetball Victoria, is thrilled by the huge opportunity this presents for Australian players and her home state.

“This is great news for squash in Australia as having the opportunity to host international events on home soil provides so many great opportunities.

Bendigo will be hosting the squash events during the 2026 Commonwealth Games

“Most importantly for these Games will be the opportunity for Victoria to host the Commonwealth Games in regional locations.

“Bendigo, the host town for the Squash at the 2026 Commonwealth Games, has a proud history of hosting many of our top tier squash events, including just this weekend, the Australian Junior Open.”

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. Melbourne will host the Opening Ceremony.

Not only will the Games deliver new economic opportunities through event infrastructure, it will deliver the double benefit of creating local jobs and housing as well as world-class sports facilities.

A Victoria-wide program of live sites and activations will ensure visitors are welcomed in every corner of the State, with the Queen’s Baton Relay to traverse the regions in the weeks leading up to the Opening Ceremony.

There will be a phased approach in creating the sports programme for Victoria 2026. An initial 16 sports, that includes squash, have been put forward for the Games, with further sports to be added later this year. According to Inside The Games, the list includes T20 cricket for the first time.

Apparently, Victoria came to the rescue after fears that the Commonwealth Games Federation was struggling to find a host for the 2026 games.

England’s Guardian newspaper reported: “D​​urban, South Africa, was stripped of the right to stage the 2022 Commonwealth Games due to financial issues and was replaced by Birmingham, England, which was originally scheduled as 2026 host, leaving a vacancy.

“Perth withdrew from the process earlier this year, with the Western Australian government citing the uncertainty posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and at least $1bn of investment required to establish the required infrastructure. Kuala Lumpur, Cardiff, Calgary, Edmonton and Adelaide had all earlier withdrawn from proposed bids.

“Tasmania formally requested Hobart and Launceston be considered as host or co-host for the event but they were unsuccessful.”

Packed crowds filled the Scotstoun venue every day during the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow

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.”

Commonwealth Games Australia President Ben Houston said CGA had been seeking a host for 2026 and worked closely with the CGF for the past two years to bring the Commonwealth Games back to Australia.

“Commonwealth Games Australia is thrilled to welcome the athletes of the Commonwealth back to Australia and we look forward to working with both the CGF and the Victorian Government to bring the Games to life across Victoria in 2026.

“A home Games will provide immeasurable benefits for our Member sports and will inspire our athletes in what will be a unique and exciting Games.

“More than that, the Victoria 2026 Commonwealth Games will play a key role in the development of Australian sport at all levels.

“We will have three editions of the Commonwealth Games in the lead up to the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Brisbane.

“Three ‘Home-Games’ for our athletes and sports in six years, plus the additional benefit of World Cups and World Championship events that will be held in Victoria and across Australia. It will be a ‘Green and Gold’ festival for a decade.”

How Squash Mad broke the news in October about changes in the forthcoming Commonwealth Games format from 2026 onwards … article here

Mr Houston added: “Together with the Australian Olympic Committee, our collective long-term vision of how sport can power Australia’s future has been outlined in the Sport: Powering Australia’s Future (10+10) submission to the 2021 Intergenerational Report, and is already being delivered.

“The 2026 Commonwealth Games in Victoria will be the accelerator to supercharge these unique opportunities in Victoria and the whole country across the next decade and the 10 years after that.”

Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews said: “It’s a great honour to have Victoria chosen as the host venue for the 2026 Commonwealth Games – we can’t wait to welcome the world to all of our state.”

“The Commonwealth Games in regional Victoria is great for jobs, hospitality and our economy.”

Squash Australia celebrates the announcement on social media

The 2026 Games will be the 23rd edition of the major multi-sport competition, which first began in Hamilton, Canada in 1930. The 2022 Commonwealth Games will be staged in Birmingham, England from July 28 to August 8, where Australia is expected to be represented by 425 athletes across all 21 sports.

Manchester hosted the 2002 Games and it returned to the UK in 2014 when Glasgow held the biggest squash event in history, with sellout crowds for all 11 days of singles and doubles play at the Scotstoun Arena, a specially built venue next to the Scotstoun Leisure Centre, which hosted last week’s World Doubles Championships.

The six side courts used in Gold Coast were relocated to the Carrara National Squash Centre but the glass show court was held in storage for almost four years.

In Birmingham, the Midlands-based Squash United group, plus their partners England Squash, PSA Foundation and Rackets Cubed, are already busy using the Commonwealth Games as a focal point to revive the sport in the region.

COMMENT: The Commonwealth Games is the biggest and most important vehicle for promoting squash in many parts of the world. Readers are invited to share their views below.


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