When the 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018) takes place on the Gold Coast in April, it will be the first large-scale, multi-sport spectacle to be hosted in Australia for over a decade – and the first delivered across multiple regional cities, including Brisbane, Cairns and Townsville. With expansive infrastructural development underway, rigorous planning, and a bold vision for the Games’ legacy, the Gold Coast and broader Queensland intend to kick-start their sporting future.
A cornucopia of expansive golden beaches, the world’s largest coral reef, year-round sunshine, and an abundance of subtropical rainforests – it is easy to see why Queensland is recognised internationally as a leading visitor destination in Australia. According to Brian Nourse, deputy chief executive of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Corporation (GOLDOC), GC2018 provides the ideal setting to celebrate the state’s natural assets.
The Australian Government, Queensland Government, City of Gold Coast and GOLDOC are working together to ensure that the region takes advantage of the economic and social uplift that the Games can afford, and it is these strong partnerships that Nourse believes will make the Games stand out.
“Everyone has worked closely to plan and deliver what will be a great Games,” he says in mid-March, just a few weeks away from the start of GC2018. “This has helped to ensure venues were completed on time – well ahead of the opening ceremony – and deliver other infrastructure upgrades for the Gold Coast and event cities to ensure we are in the best position possible to deliver the event.”
Planning and implementing a major sporting event, though, is unsurprisingly not always plain sailing. “Delivering a Commonwealth Games is a massive planning and logistical task – from the bid, through the planning phases, right through to delivery,” says Nourse.
While the success of the Games is vital for the Gold Coast, the city has far more in its sights for the future. Melbourne staged the Commonwealth Games in 2006 and since then has gone on to confirm its reputation as one of the foremost major event-hosting cities around the world. The Gold Coast, and Queensland, are aiming for similar success on the global sporting stage.
“The Games will broadcast the Gold Coast and event cities to a cumulative broadcast audience of around 1.5 billion across the world,” explains Nourse. “This really opens the Gold Coast up as an international destination for sports events, conferences, tourism and a range of other opportunities.”
In preparation for GC2018, the Queensland Government has delivered three new world class competition venues and completed upgrades at a further seven venues that will provide important sport and community facilities. Approximately AUS$200 million has been invested in new and improved sporting infrastructure on the Gold Coast, bringing the city’s facilities up to international competition standard. These include the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre, Gold Coast Sport Precinct, Coomera Indoor Sports Centre and Gold Coast Hockey Centre, among others.
Catalysed by increasing concerns about the environmental and societal impacts of hosting major sporting events, legacy-building has come to dominate the conversation. Looking ahead, the City of Gold Coast has partnered with state body Tourism and Events Queensland to support local organisers for future events in the city, with the aim of using GC2018 to pave the way for new high-value major events looking for a unique destination as host.
The Gold Coast has used GC2018 as an opportunity to expand its established sports programme and generate increased trade and investment outcomes for the local sports industry. So far, three new sporting organisations have been encouraged to relocate to the Gold Coast, including Triathlon Australia, Mountain Bike Australia and the International Basketball Federation (FIBA). Meanwhile, Oceania Squash Australia has also agreed to relocate to the Gold Coast after GC2018.
Nourse notes that all of the new or renovated venues were completed well in advance of the Games, “meaning that the community are experiencing the benefits”.
Meanwhile, pre-GC2018 events have included the 2014 Pan Pacific Swimming Championships at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre, the 2017 Badminton World Federation Sudirman Cup at the Gold Coast Sports and Leisure Centre and the 2017 Cycling Australia Track National Championship at the new Anna Meares Velodrome. The 2017 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships were also held in Cairns.
As well as dedicated Games spending, however, the government, with contributions from the private sector, is investing approximately AUS$2.6 billion in critical transport infrastructure to support the successful delivery of the Games and meet future growth demands.
GOLD COAST 2018
Major event hosting opportunities:
Peter Hunt, Tourism and Events Queensland
+61 458 761 967
Training camp opportunities:
Craig Rowsell, City of Gold Coast
+61 439 226 107
The jewel in the Gold Coast’s sporting venue crown is its Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct, home to the Commonwealth Games Athletes Village. After GC2018, the village will become a master-planned mixed-use community.
Another aspect of the city’s legacy-building plan is social cohesion, and has involved the establishment of a volunteer programme that can be extended to support major events in the future and is being delivered to tourism professionals. The 1,500-strong GC2018 staff will be joined by 15,000 ‘Games Shapers’, volunteers who Nourse describes as “the heart and soul” of the event.
“In terms of staff,” he adds, “a Games environment, due to the pace and agility required by staff, is a supercharged learning environment. We have 42 functional areas across a range of skills and our people develop a range of skills through the journey that can set them up for future career prospects.”
Beyond the city and state’s renewed capacity to host bigger international occasions, sporting event rights holders and promoters have identified the intrinsic value of the destination as a key ingredient bolstering the region’s appeal.
Dave Beeche, managing director of Ironman Oceania, which owns and delivers several events in Queensland, including the ITU World Triathlon Series Gold Coast, Cairns Ironman Asia Pacific Championship and the Noosa Triathlon and Multisport Festival, says the modern sports spectacle is just as much about where it is held as it is about the event itself.
“People will choose events based on travelling to great destinations, and one of the strengths of Queensland is that it’s a great year-round destination that is highly aspirational for our customers,” he explains. “So many countries around the world have amazing event cities but what sets Queensland apart is its natural environment.
“Stunning landscapes and experiences, an outdoor lifestyle and perfect weather make Queensland and cities such as the Gold Coast enviable event destinations. For the events that we deliver, this has a tangible and positive impact on the athlete experience and the bottom line.
“Great locations draw more participants and with growing participant numbers, we’re able to deliver more attractive commercial partnerships and grow our events year-on-year. Following the success of the 2016 Ironman 70.3 World Championships on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, we’re working hard to make sure the 2018 ITU World Triathlon Grand Final on the Gold Coast continues to lift the bar and is a knockout success, and I think Queensland will set us up well for that.”
On the eve of the 2018 Commonwealth Games, there is no doubt that the Gold Coast is poised to become Australia’s next big sporting city.