June 15 - Rowing has been added to the list of category two optional sports for the Commonwealth Games, increasing its chances of being included in future events.

Category two means that rowing is now eligible to be proposed on the list of sports by prospective candidate cities in their bids for the Games, including Hambantota and the Gold Coast, who are both bidding for 2018.

The candidate cities can choose up to seven "optional" sports on top of the 10 required core sports that always appear at the Commonwealth Games.

Rowing is now one of these additional sports.

"We are really pleased with this decision," said FISA executive director Matt Smith.

"Rowing is strong in many Commonwealth countries and we think rowing is a great complement to the programme of sports.

"Our first opportunity would be 2018, if rowing is proposed by the candidate cities and then that city is selected by the members of the Commonwealth Games Federation."

FISA is planning to launch a development programme in Commonwealth countries to try to increase its chances of being included in future Games.

Smith said: "We have committed to engage in a very strong development programme in Commonwealth countries in order to maximise potential participants in the Games."

There are presently 36 Commonwealth countries that have national rowing federations.

The goal for 2018 is to increase this to at least 48.

Rowing was one of the Commonwealth Games sports when the Games first began in 1930.

It continued from 1938 to 1962 and for the last time in 1986.

At the 1986 Commonwealth Games Steve Redgrave, competing for England, won the men’s single, coxed four and pair.

Since 1986 the Commonwealth Rowing Championships regatta has been organised in the year of the Commonwealth Games with medals being provided by the Commonwealth Games Federation.

The regatta was held in 1994 and 1999 in Canada and in 2006 in Scotland.

This year Welland, Ontario, will host the 2010 Commonwealth Rowing Championships on July 31 and August 1.