The Commonwealth Games might be the baby sister to the more prestigious Olympics, but with 71 nations competing in the world’s most sports-crazy city as well as festivals, other major international sports events, and all of Melbourne’s usual stuff, it promises to be one big party.
Melbournians are renowned for their love of sport. This is the city that is home to the Australian Formula One Grand Prix, one of four international tennis Grand Slam tournaments and the Melbourne Cup. Australia’s first Olympic Games was held here. Plus it’s the birthplace of the national football code, Aussie Rules. So there’s no doubt that Melbourne is a city that knows how to host a sporting event and over the 11-day period of the Commonwealth Games from March 15-26 Victorians will be determined to put on an unforgettable show.
This massive event encompasses 16 sports including acquatics like diving and swimming, cycling, hockey, gymnastics and rugby 7s. The athletics alone, with some of the traditionally most popular events, will see 54 gold medals including the marathon, pole vault, high jump and the prestigious 100 meter event.
In terms of players the numbers are also impressive. Four and a half thousand athletes from countries around the world will be attending the Commonwealth Games—ensuring an elite and competitive field.
With events being held across Melbourne’s numerous world-class stadiums such as Rod Laver Arena (where the Australian Open tennis is held), Telstra Dome (where the 2003 Rugby World Cup was held) and, of course, in the enormous Melbourne Cricket Ground, for the avid sports fanatic this is the place to be in March. Tickets can be purchased at www.melbourne2006.com.au.
If the Commonwealth Games isn’t enough to satisfy your craving for sport then hang around an extra four days for the Foster’s Australian Grand Prix 2006. From March 30-April 2 the world’s best professional Formula One drivers will be showing off their speed around Albert Park lake. Every year this suburban parkland is turned into a motorhead’s dream with roaring engines, fast cars and, yes, girls in very tight lycra.
The Grand Prix will also feature a range of different hot rods racing around the circuit including the V8 Supercars, the Formula 3 cars and F/A-18 Royal Australian Airforce (RAAF) jets. Bring your ear plugs as the noise is breathtaking. For tickets go to www.grandprix.com.au.
But life in Melbourne is not just about sport: Melbourne prides itself on being a city of culture, shopping and the arts. If you want to shop till you drop then the Queen Victoria Market’s Suzuki Night Market (513 Elizabeth St., Melbourne, +61 3-9320-5822) is open on Wednesday nights from 5:30-10pm until March 22 for extended trading. Over 200 stalls including food, bars and shopping are open as well as live music and roving entertainers.
If big shows are your thing and you like a little song and dance then get your tickets to The Lion King (www.ticketek.com.au), the celebrated stage musical based on Disney’s animated film. For something a little heavier, legendary Irish rock band U2 (www.ticketmaster.com.au) just happens to be in town as well on March 24-25 rocking out their new Vertigo tour.
But if just buying the plane ticket has left you really broke, then Festival Melbourne 2006 might be more for you: It’s a free festival held during the period of the Games that celebrates cultural diversity with music, dance, exhibitions, street theatre and circus performance around the city’s parks and galleries. In terms of music there will be performers from around the world including reggae king Jimmy Cliff, Paul Kelly and the Golden Pride Children’s Choir from Tanzania. The English Random Contemporary Dance Company will be kicking up their heels at the Myer Music Bowl and the National Institute of Circus Arts will also be on display at the Alexandra Gardens.
If you prefer something more sedate then, just before the Games, the State Library of Victoria will present the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize from March 9-14. As part of Festival Melbourne 2006 there will be a host of regional author tours, public readings and book signings from writers across the Commonwealth. And for art lovers special exhibitions will be on at most of the major galleries including the 2006 Contemporary Commonwealth (February 24-May 21), an exhibition exploring the topography of the modern Commonwealth, at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image and the National Gallery of Victoria Australia at Melbourne’s latest drawcard, Federation Square.