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Superstars of Australian athletics will take on the world’s best in a high-profile track and field meet on home soil, with World Athletics and the Victorian Government today announcing their support of a World Continental Tour Gold Level meet in Melbourne in February.

The Melbourne Track Classic will be upgraded and reimagined as the Maurie Plant Meet - Melbourne, held in memory of the athletics stalwart on Thursday, February 23, with plans in place for it to become the highest profile annual track and field event in the southern hemisphere.

The Continental Tour Gold series is the uppermost level on the World Athletics Continental Tour calendar, sitting just under the Diamond League in status. Each meet attracts the best athletes across the globe, with 13 existing meets offered in Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas including New York and Los Angeles and for the next three years, in Oceania.

The Maurie Plant Meet is part of the Chemist Warehouse Australian Summer Series, and will take place at Lakeside Stadium, Albert Park in the heart of Australia’s sporting capital, the week after the World Athletics Cross Country Championships in Bathurst. Both Australian and international athletes are to be announced in the coming weeks as the golden decade ramps up to take our Aussie athletes to the start line and the podium in Victoria 2026 and Brisbane 2032.

As a part of the World Athletics Continental Tour Gold series, the Maurie Plant Meet will offer over $200,000 in prize money plus higher world ranking points which assists athletes in their quest for World Championships and Olympic Games qualification. The meet will help elevate the sport in Australia by featuring some of the biggest names in global athletics with at least three athletes from the top 50 of the World Athletics world rankings in at least 12 events. It will be broadcast in over 150 countries, and available on live stream to the rest of the world.

The meet will also further Melbourne’s quest to become a summer training and competition venue for the world’s best athletes leading up to the 2026 Victoria Commonwealth Games and 2032 Brisbane Olympic Games.

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44 minutes ago, Victorian said:

The towns set to be home to athletes villages

Athletes villages will be built in four Victorian towns, with 7000 Commonwealth Games competitors and officials to descend on the regions.

Victoria is officially gearing up for the 2026 Commonwealth Games after the Birmingham came to end.

New properties will be built across regional Victoria to house athletes and officials during the 2026 Commonwealth Games in an unprecedented rural construction boom.

School camps and boarding houses could also be converted into temporary worker villages to free-up hotels and motels for spectators.

Rural and First Nations businesses have been told they will be backed to target the dozens of tenders opening this year, to also include supply of sports equipment, uniforms, merchandise, drug testing facilities and even medals.

Planning has already begun for four village sites – Ballarat Saleyards, the Waurn Ponds station precinct on the outskirts of Geelong, Flora Hill in Bendigo and English St, Morwell – as officials race to create suitable accommodation for almost 7000 participants. This includes 2500 athletes and officials to be housed in Geelong, 1600 in Bendigo, 1800 in Ballarat and 1000 in Morwell.

PLans for a gymnastics stadium in Waurn Ponds. Picture: Supplied

PLans for a gymnastics stadium in Waurn Ponds. Picture: Supplied

Competitors in BMX and cycling road races at Shepparton will stay in Bendigo, with drivers commissioned to transport them to their events.

In a recent presentation to businesses, Games services chief Kate Matson said it was expected 400,000 visitors would flock to the state.

However, spectators would not be encouraged to crisscross between regional cities in a single day due to accommodation and transport issues. Instead they would be urged to visit each “hub” separately and stay the night, or stay in Melbourne and take day trips.

“Limited accommodation in regional Victoria, which we are well aware of, will put additional pressure on Melbourne as a solution,” Ms Matson said.

“We are not going to suggest or advertise that you can get to swimming in Geelong in the morning and the rugby sevens in Gippsland in the afternoon. That would be pretty difficult, not to mention ­extremely expensive.” Games organisers have also identified a likely shortage of workers will need to be addressed for the 2026 event, which is being held across multiple cities for the first time.

Outdoor aquatics in Geelong. Picture: Supplied

Outdoor aquatics in Geelong. Picture: Supplied

Discussions with the federal government are looking at potential temporary visas in under-resourced sectors, such as security.

Major infrastructure is also planned, including aquatics and gymnastics centres worth a combined $292m to be built near Geelong.

During the Games it is expected there will be 3900 jobs created, putting further pressure on local housing.

“We are looking at things like temporary workforce villages, standing them up,” Ms Matson said. “Not quite Qatar-solutions, but something similar where we might even be able to repurpose it with our friends at Homes Victoria or even Emergency Recovery Victoria in the future.

“I am not going to take all of our motel and hotel accommodation (for workforce) … I’m looking at school camps, I’m looking at boarding schools, I’m looking at a whole bunch of places that spectators wouldn’t be able to book.”

A basketball stadiums in Waurn Ponds. Picture: Supplied

A basketball stadiums in Waurn Ponds. Picture: Supplied

A basketball stadiums in Waurn Ponds. Picture: Supplied

A basketball stadiums in Waurn Ponds. Picture: Supplied

In Qatar for the recent soccer World Cup, tent villages were erected to house visitors.

Ms Matson also said an audit showed accessible accommodation across Victoria was “lacking”, which would need to be addressed.

Commonwealth Games delivery minister Jacinta Allan said construction of units for athletes would begin this year, although exact numbers were being finalised.

“We will have strong local procurement targets so regional Victorian businesses and First Peoples’ businesses can get their fair share of the opportunities as we build up to the Games,” Ms Allan said.

Social services groups have called for some accommodation built for the event to be set aside for vulnerable Victorians as a Games “legacy”, which Ms Matson said was under consideration for each site.


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Geotech and archaeology work begins on Eureka Stadium and Ballarat showgrounds

By Gabrielle Hodson
Ballarat Courier
January 23 2023

Geology experts are getting down and dirty at Eureka Stadium and the showgrounds, testing the ground to determine what can be built on top ahead of construction of major infrastructure for the 2026 Commonwealth Games. And it's all good so far.

Archaeologists and staff from the Ballarat office of A.S James Geotechnical Engineers spent the weekend drilling, digging, sifting and sampling soil from underneath the stadium property on Creswick Road - and the showgrounds next door.

Workers also dug several bore holes to a depth of 12 metres on Saturday. Wade Fullerton from A.S. James said while the samples needed detailed lab analysis, much of the land between the showgrounds and oval (the space used by visiting circuses) was a relatively undisturbed layer of clay over siltstone - and thankfully, no high water table.


Morgan Turner and Wade Fullerton of A.S. James help drill core samples to a depth of up to 12m at Eureka Stadium - the first step in planning future facilities for the Commonwealth Games. Picture by Kate Healy.

They didn't exactly hit gold - or any old mineshafts - but small amounts of quartz were found in the samples. The Creswick Road showgrounds have been council property since at least 1934 and before that, the show was held on a site between Lake Wendouree and Gregory Street.

Maps from 1861 depict paddocks across the area. Archaeologists representing local indigenous groups were also on hand to check the level and amount of siltstone, which Mr Fullerton said could sometimes yield aboriginal artefacts.

COMMONWEALTH GAMES 2026 COUNTDOWN - The Games begin March 17, 2026 - 1148 days

The testing is the first stage to determine what sort of grandstands, parking and more can go on top. Eureka Stadium will get a $159 million upgrade ahead of the March 2026 Commonwealth Games in country Victoria to prepare the site for athletics and para-athletics.

It includes the addition of 5000 permanent seats to the stadium. A.S. James was also the company that tested Ballarat's GovHub site in 2019 - revealing thousands of intact goldrush-era bottles and a giant boulder with a core of hundreds of 10 centimetre crystals known as Natrolite. Staff said the boulder cracked open during removal and was mistaken for naturally-occurring asbestos. They said they would have liked the crystals to have been put on display at the government offices but were unsure what had happened to the huge rock.


Siltstone samples being readied to be sifted by archeaologists for indigenous and other artefacts beside Eureka Stadium. Picture by Kate Healy.

A.S James is also hoping to work on the former saleyards site at Delacombe, which has been selected a the site for a Commonwealth Games village. 

The State Government estimates the games will create more than 600 full-time equivalent jobs before they start, another 3900 during the games and an extra 3000 after the closing ceremony. They believe it will inject $3 billion into the Victorian economy

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