Friday, January 29, 2010

Let's all kick in for the Games

THE news this week that soccer's international governing body, FIFA, was considering only European bidders for the 2018 Soccer World Cup should have been good news for the Gold Coast's bid to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

For instance, it should have meant that the $45 million the Federal Government had reportedly earmarked to fund the World Cup bid should have become available for the Coast's hope to host the Commonwealth Games.

But by some sleight of hand, once-strong government support for the Coast bid seems to have evaporated. If we did not know better we might think both the Queensland and Federal governments have decided that the Coast bid for the Commonwealth Games will cost too much. Perhaps Ms Bligh needs to tell us now -- is Queensland too broke to help fund a Gold Coast bid?

The fact is that the forlorn Australian bid for the World Cup was at best naive, at worst totally unrealistic.

But the Gold Coast bid for the Commonwealth Games is well grounded and has a real chance of success -- provided it gets the kind of support it has been promised. It was way back in June 2008 that Premier Bligh told Parliament that the Gold Coast would have the exclusive right to be Australia's nominee for the 2018 Games.

She said she had agreed to commission a 'full and comprehensive feasibility study' into the Coast bid. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd also gave his support for the Coast's Commonwealth Games bid, though to be fair he refused to contribute funding because of the $45 million he said the World Cup attempt would entail.

Despite this week's revelation from FIFA, the Government says Australia's bid is going ahead.

Even a successful World Cup bid would hold little benefit for the Gold Coast, or even Queensland for that matter, with the big games going to southern cities.

But if the World Cup bid should fall at the first hurdle, we expect the Prime Minister to fulfil his implicit promise to provide federal funds for the Coast bid -- just as we expect the Premier to keep her explicit promise to help fund the Coast's Games bid.

Both federal and state funding will be crucial if the Gold Coast is to mount a realistic bid for the Games but it seems that since the World Cup failure both have taken their eye off the real ball.

One of the first hurdles to be passed for the Gold Coast to throw its hat into the ring is for the Australian Commonwealth Games Association to meet to formally decide whether an Australian bid for the 2018 games will proceed; but the ACGA seems preoccupied with other matters.

Its website proclaims that the organisation 'is now fully focused' on the 2010 Games in Delhi, India. We suggest that Ms Bligh, Mr Rudd, and especially the ACGA should be much more focused on the Gold Coast bid.

A successful Commonwealth Games bid for the Gold Coast would provide a major fillip to sports infrastructure for the greater Gold Coast, infrastructure that would form a lasting base for the future growth of sports tourism to the area -- an area of tourism that is at present under-used but which is expected to expand dramatically in the future.

The provision of that infrastructure would fit in neatly with State Government economic plans for the area. The Games would create an increase in tourism, an increase of awareness of the Gold Coast on an unprecedented scale.

That in turn would boost the economy of the entire area. Securing the Games for the Coast would be a feather in the caps of both Ms Bligh and Mr Rudd that would boost their stature here immeasurably. Last, but far from least, hosting an event of the stature of the Commonwealth Games would represent the coming of age for the Gold Coast as a city to be reckoned with.

But time is running short. The deadline for Commonwealth Games associations and candidate cities to notify of their intention to bid for the 2018 Games is March 31 -- just two months away.

Now is the time for Ms Bligh and Mr Rudd to put their money where their mouths have been -- we need your support.

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