The 1988 Adelaide Bicentennial Carnival was the 22nd edition of the Australian National Football Carnival, an Australian rules football State of Origin competition. Australia was celebrating its Bicentenary in 1988 so the carnival was known as the 'Bicentennial Carnival'. It took place over four days from 2 March until 5 March, and the matches were played at Football Park and Norwood Oval.
Ten teams were involved, including all the states and territories, making in the most heavily contested competition. They were divided into two sections. South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia and New South Wales were in Section One. Although traditionally the Tasmanians had enjoyed more success in the interstate arena than New South Wales, the latter had 22 VFL players in its squad compared to the island state's 15 which helped them obtain the final Section One spot.
Section Two was occupied by the Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory, Queensland, Tasmania and two non regional teams. The Australian Amateurs was one of those, a squad of amateur players from across the country's leagues. Finally, the Victorian Football Association representative team made up the group but selection was not restricted to VFA players. If a footballer, now competing elsewhere, had started his career in the VFA, such as Terry Wallace for example, then he was eligible to join the squad. The same rules applied to the other teams, so if a Tasmanian born player had started his career at West Perth then he could be selected for either Tasmania or Western Australia.
Attendances at the tournament were lower than expected, and overall the tournament ran at a $30,000 loss. The winning state was originally to have received a $40,000 prize, with incrementally lower prizes for all other states; but these prizes were abandoned due to the operating loss.