One year to go!
Golden sands and now the quest for gold medals in 2018
Extensive six-page pull-out on the Commonwealth Games
AUSTRALIA’S Gold Coast is probably the fun capital of the nation. And, with a year to go until it hosts the 21st edition of the Commonwealth Games, it is now setting itself up to surpass Melbourne as the sporting capital too.
Melbourne may still have the Australian Open tennis, the Grand Prix and be the hub of all things Aussie Rules, but the Gold Coast has been building facilities and building capacity for a major assault.
A domestic pleasure-ground it has always been, now it is seeking an international profile by promoting itself as the perfect host to a global audience of around 1.5billion people.
It is the first regional Australian city to host the Games – previous venues Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne are all State capitals – and it is preparing itself to host around 6,700 athletes and officials, 15,000 volunteers and thousands more staff, media and, of course spectators.
Set on the coast some 66 miles south of Brisbane, just over the New South Wales border and into Queensland, the Gold Coast is one of Australia’s fastest-growing regions. The local population of around 500,000 is expected to be swelled by around 690,000 domestic and international visitors, according to council documents.
And if anywhere can squeeze in the hordes and create a party atmosphere, the Glitter Strip, home to bars and restaurants and clubs, and yet more bars, can.
The city, which features a stunning coastline and glorious beaches like Surfers’ Paradise is transform- ing itself. It has always been a magnet for what Australians call ‘schoolies’, a week-long festival of teenage debauchery where ‘leavers’ celebrate the end of their exams and, assuming they return home intact, look forward to the next phase of their lives.
For the other 51 weeks of the year, it has always been a magnet for families attracted by the cheap flights, myriad theme parks, the beaches and the reliably tropical weather.
And it has now become a magnet for sport, with professional franchises the Titans (rugby league) and the relatively new Suns (Australian Rules) based in the city and rumours suggesting the national hockey programme might be heading there from its long-term base in Perth.
April 4, 2018 is the big day when 18 sports and seven para sports will start competing. Among those 6,000plus athletes will be 10 men’s and women’s hockey teams with Australia looking to protect its mighty golden record, whose only blip came when India’s women triumphed at the Manchester Games of 2002.
It will be Australia’s largest sporting event of the decade. Sure, they are not the Olympics but as you’ll read elsewhere on these pages, the Commonwealth Games are pretty similar. Only nicer. And more fun.
Sun, surf and sport: Gold Coast City is preparing to host the Commonwealth Games