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The new Australian global sport hub

Sports Business International | October 2017

As the Gold Coast continues to build on its unparalleled sport event hosting capabilities in the lead up to one of the largest multi-sport events in the world, it now has a firm grip on the title as Australia’s sporting capital.

The Gold Coast is quickly gaining broad recognition on the world stage as Australia’s new global sport hub as it prepares to deliver the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.

The Gold Coast, located at the southernmost part of the Australian State of Queensland, already has a formidable reputation as a major event destination, buoyed by its stunning natural coastal environment and extensive tourism infrastructure.

However, the global sporting community is recognising the region as more than the holiday heartland of Australia, due partly to a comprehensive infrastructure program implemented for GC2018.

The $1.5 billion event has seen strategic investment in new world-class sporting venues for athletics, netball, wrestling, weightlifting, badminton and gymnastics. It has also enhanced capacity to host major events in swimming, hockey and mountain bike racing. Beyond sporting infrastructure, GC2018 has also spawned major investment in new and improved public spaces and amenities and its public transportation network, including major improvements to connectivity with Queensland’s capital city Brisbane, only an hour’s drive away.

GC2018 has further developed the Gold Coast and Queensland’s capability to facilitate the planning and delivery of major events. New cross-government agency coordination groups have been established, 15,000 volunteers have been trained and the local small business community engaged in the crucial role they play in the delivery of successful major events.

These factors, when combined with the Gold Coast’s existing major event hosting attributes, position the Gold Coast to attract more high value major events to its shores bolstering the region’s already impressive calendar of major sporting events, which includes the Gold Coast Marathon, Australian PGA Championship, Supercars Gold Coast 600, Australian Surf Life Saving Championships and World Surf League Championship Tour event the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast.

The best event in the best destination

The Gold Coast, and broader Queensland, is primed to deliver a one-of-a-kind Commonwealth Games says Games CEO, Mark Peters who led the GC2018 Bid and more than seven years later continues as CEO of the organising committee.

“The Gold Coast is set to deliver a great Games in the best location in the world,” he says.

“GC2018 will be the largest sporting event Australia will see in more than a decade. But it is the Gold Coast’s unique and captivating attributes – including its natural environment and world-class infrastructure – that will underpin the success of the Games and demonstrate the strength in the brand and fact that there is a real future for this multi-sport event.

“Never has the Commonwealth Games been hosted in a city like the Gold Coast and I think the 2018 event will herald a new era in both the Gold Coast’s growth and maturity, and the Commonwealth Games’ growth and maturity.”

It stretches beyond the Gold Coast

GC2018 has also further positioned the state of Queensland as a powerhouse that punches well above its weight in terms of capacity to host major sporting events.

The tourism and events industry is worth $25 billion to the Queensland state economy and employs one in 10 Queenslanders directly or indirectly.

In addition, the annual economic value of Queensland’s Event calendar to the State has surged almost 60 per cent to $600 million over the past two years.

In 2017 alone, Queensland, through the work of Tourism and Events Queensland (TEQ) in partnership with various local governments including the City of Gold Coast, hosted numerous high value major events including the Total BWF Sudirman Cup on the Gold Coast, the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Cairns, the Brisbane Global Rugby Tens and the spectacular WBO Welterweight Championship bout between Manny Pacquiao and Jeff Horn at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.

Leading sport event rights holders and promoters have identified the intrinsic value of its destinations as a key ingredient bolstering Queensland’s appeal as an event drawcard.

Dave Beeche, Managing Director of IRONMAN Oceania, which owns and delivers numerous events in Queensland including the ITU World Triathlon Series Gold Coast, Cairns IRONMAN Asia Pacific Championship and the iconic 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 said.

“So many countries around the world have amazing event cities but what sets Queensland apart is its natural environment.

“Stunning landscapes and experiences, its outdoor lifestyle and perfect weather make Queensland and cities such as the Gold Coast an enviable event destination.

“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.”

Elite athletes love the Gold Coast

Queensland and the Gold Coast are not only establishing themselves as event powerhouses, but also leaders in sport excellence and innovation; from cutting-edge research in sport science to leading coaching techniques.

The city is particularly making its mark as a hotbed of innovative sports ventures such as home-grown success story Body Science International, a sports nutrition and specialist sports compression clothing manufacturer.

This innovation, combined with an enviable natural environment and relaxed outdoor lifestyle, has helped the Gold Coast attract a healthy cohort of world calibre athletes. They have been bolstered by a legacy of champions who now live in the coastal city, many of whom help keep the dream alive for a deepening pool of local sporting talent.

Duncan Free, a four-time Olympian, works closely with elite athletes to balance sport and study in his capacity as director of Griffith University’s Griffith Sports College. The program’s success was highlighted in 2016 when Griffith University had a higher number of students and alumni than any other Australian university competing in the Rio Olympics.

“The Gold Coast is now literally a breeding ground for elite athletes across a number of different sports, and that’s great to see,” said Mr Free.

We’ve also had many athletes relocate to the Gold Coast in recent years because of the training benefits and the lifestyle it has to offer.

“As an athlete, it’s important to have that balance between work, training and lifestyle, so this is a firm indication by elite athletes that the Gold Coast is a great place to achieve that.” Mr Free, a Beijing Olympics gold medallist, was an early convert. He moved to the Gold Coast in 1983 before taking up his position at Griffith Sports College in 2004.

Weather played a big part in the decision after spending many chilly mornings on Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra unable to feel his fingers for an entire session during winter training.

“Gold Coast city as a training venue is perfect because in the middle of winter it can still be 15 degrees in the morning,” Mr Free said.

“Twelve months of the year the weather here is ideal for most sports, but the landscape of the Gold Coast is equally great for training.

“If you are a runner or a cyclist, the topography and the layout are perfect. You have the flat coastal areas and within a 10-minute drive you have the Hinterland for mountain bike riding.”

With this in mind the Gold Coast has become a leading training destination for high-performance training camps in the off season or in preparation for major competitions within the region.

Beyond 2018, Mr Free sees a lot of potential for the Gold Coast as a training venue, including international teams preparing for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“Our time zone is very similar to Tokyo and that’s very important for athletes in training for a major event such as this.”

2017-18 Gold Coast Major Sporting Events

*GC2018 Track cycling and shooting events will be held in Brisbane with basketball preliminaries held in Cairns and Townsville.

2017-18 Broader Queensland Major Sporting Events

  • 2017 Bledisloe Cup, Brisbane
  • 2017 Rugby League World Cup (multiple matches in Brisbane, Cairns & Townsville)
  • 2017 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships, Cairns
  • 2017-18 Ashes Cricket Test Series, The Gabba, Brisbane
  • Battle of Brisbane: Manny Pacquiao vs Jeff Horn, Brisbane
  • Brisbane International (ATP and WTA tennis tournament)
  • Cairns IRONMAN Asia Pacific Championship
  • IRONMAN 70.3 Sunshine Coast
  • Mooloolaba Triathlon Festival
  • Noosa Triathlon and Multisport Festival
  • Supercars Townsville 500

Why Gold Coast?

Dave Beeche, Managing Director of IRONMAN Oceania, outlines the advantages and reasons why they look to Queensland to host major events.

  • An enviable host destination enables the delivery of superior athlete satisfaction and an event experience that brings people back year after year
  • climate makes Queensland the perfect year-round events destination
  • quality infrastructure across events, tourism and entertainment
  • easily accessible locations both domestically and internationally
  • coordinated approach by local and state governments facilitates the operational delivery of events
  • true endurance sport culture with many international elite athletes and coaching staff calling Queensland home.

“Stunning landscapes and experiences, its outdoor lifestyle and perfect weather make Queensland and the Gold Coast an enviable event destination. For the events that we deliver, this has an impact on the bottom line”

Duncan Free, four-time Olympian and Director, Griffith University’s Griffith Sports College

“The Gold Coast is now literally a breeding ground for elite athletes across a number of different sports. We’ve also had many athletes relocate to the Gold Coast in recent years because of the training benefits and the lifestyle it has to offer”

*** Originally published in Sport Business International, World Class Sports Hosts 2017

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