Jeroen Weimar, CEO of the Victoria 2026 Commonwealth Games Organising Committee, has outlined the road ahead as he celebrates three years until the opening ceremony on Friday 17 March.

The 2026 Games will get underway with a spectacular event held at the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground, before the sports programme begins the following day at venues across the State of Victoria.

“There's a lot to pack into an opening ceremony,” said Weimar during a recent visit to the Commonwealth Games Federation’s board meeting in London.

“I think we'll be pretty tired by the time we get there, but the adrenaline will be kicking in at that point!”

And while plans for the ceremony itself are a long way from being finalised, Weimar spoke of the importance of recognising Victoria’s First Peoples on a global stage.

He added: “As we did with the handover ceremony in Birmingham, celebrating First Nations is going to be a big theme for the Games. We're in a unique position now where we're having a conversation about Treaty, about voice and First Nations - the world's oldest continuously living culture - and what it means in a contemporary Australia.”

The Victoria 2026 Commonwealth Games will be the first to be held across a region, as opposed to within one city. While the opening ceremony will take place in the capital Melbourne itself, the sports programme will unfold in Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Gippsland and Shepparton

And Weimar says the reaction across the State, and from within Melbourne, has been incredibly positive towards the concept.

“I spend a lot of time on the road, and everywhere people are just so excited about the Games, about having these world class athletes doing these amazing things in their very backyards,” he added.

“Victorians love their sport - we'll watch or play anything that involves a ball or any kind of athletic adventure, so we're getting a lot of positivity around it. And for Melburnians, those of us who live in the big city, they're looking forward to something a little bit different and the opportunity to get out into our own State and see things that perhaps we've never really appreciated.”

Meanwhile, the focus for the next 12 months is around laying the groundwork - literally and metaphorically - to ensure that Victoria is in the best position to put on a memorable Games.

“2023 is really about getting the construction underway. We need to get into the ground and start getting those venues ready for the athletes to arrive in March 2026,” Weimar added.

“There's a lot of moving parts, and the really hard work is starting now; getting the detailed design done for four different athlete villages, two new venues - an aquatics centre and a gymnastics centre - and more existing venues to do major upgrade work on. 

“We're also spending a lot of time now talking to the Commonwealth Games Associations to understand what support they need to bring their athletes to our state and create a fantastic Games for them.”