The 18th Commonwealth Games in Melbourne from 15 to 26 March 2006 will be a celebration for all those who are passionate about sport. The success of such a major international event hinges on the spirit of cooperation and significant behind-the-scenes support which is why the Australian Government is proudly contributing $293 million as part of the coordinated effort underway to ensure the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games are the greatest yet. The Games will be an opportunity to showcase Australian values to the world.
The competing nations that participate in the Commonwealth Games are unique in that they are not brought together by geographic or climatic factors, such as the African Games or the Winter Olympics, but by history. Often referred to as the 'friendly games', the athletes and officials from member countries all share English as a common language, and come together every four years to enjoy the friendship, entertainment and sporting performances that make the Games such a distinctive sporting and cultural exchange.
Melbourne is the fourth Australian city to host the 18th Commonwealth Games, after Sydney in 1938, Perth in 1962 and Brisbane in 1982.
The Games will run for 12 days, with 72 countries and 4,500 athletes taking part in 16 sports.
From athletes and supporters to performers, spectators and a world-wide audience, millions of people will participate the Games to be staged in Melbourne, a dream country of the sports and culture and a largest city in the Australian state of Victoria.
Often hailed as the sports and cultural capital of Australia, Melbourne has a long history of staging major events, from the Olympic Games, held in 1956, to Grand Slam tennis and Formula One, which are held every year.
The Games will open with a grand ceremony at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), which after renovations will hold a capacity crowd in excess of 100,000. The MCG will also be the site of the Game's track and field events, and the closing ceremony on 26 March.
As part of the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games, over 2,500 world-class performing artists from across Australia and the Commonwealth will descend on Melbourne in March for the largest free cultural festival ever held in Australia.
Festival Melbourne2006 will be an international spectacular with 11 days of non-stop music, dance, circus, street theatre and visual art from all the corners of the Commonwealth in a range of venues across the State, including the great outdoors. And, best of all, everything's free!
The Commonwealth Games has a long and distinguished history. The first Games were held in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada in 1930. From 1930 to 1950 the Games were known as the British Empire Games, then the British Empire and Commonwealth Games until 1962. From 1966 to 1974 they took on the title British Commonwealth Games and from 1978 onwards have been known as the Commonwealth Games.
Since 1930 the Games have been held every four years except for 1942 and 1946 due to World War II.
The Queen's Baton Relay is one of the great traditions of the Commonwealth Games - having been the curtain-raiser to every games since Cardiff, Wales, in 1958. The relay symbolises the gathering of people from across the Commonwealth at the four-yearly festival of sport and culture.
The baton arrived in Australia on 24 January 2006 after travelling more than 180,000 kilometres and visiting all 71 nations of the Commonwealth in one year and one day. This makes the Melbourne 2006 Queen's Baton Relay the world's longest, most inclusive relay.
Volunteers are a vital part of everyday Australian life through their selfless service. The Australian Government's support for the Melbourne 2006 Volunteer Programme is an acknowledgment of the critical role that volunteers will have in ensuring the success of the Games. The level of interest and enthusiasm in volunteering at the Games has been overwhelming. In March 2006 Victoria will be buzzing with the energy of up to 15,000 volunteers, working together to deliver a unique and successful Commonwealth Games experience.
Organisers are rolling out the final stage of preparation - the culmination of more than ten years of organisation to bring Melbourne its biggest sporting event ever.
So their vision is to promote a unique, friendly, world class Games and to develop sport for the benefit of the people, the nations and the territories of the Commonwealth and thereby strengthen the Commonwealth.