Commonwealth Column: The Commonwealth Games much more than just another sporting event

By Bridget McKenzie, Australian Federal Minister for Sport

The time has arrived and the Gold Coast is welcoming visitors from all parts of the world who have come to watch sporting history be made at the 21st Commonwealth Games.

Australia will proudly host 6,600 athletes and team officials from more than 70 Commonwealth Nations and Territories, in what will be a spectacular event. Not to mention the thousands of supporters who have already travelled to the Gold Coast, donning their country’s colours, who are eagerly cheering on their team.

These Games are the largest sporting event that Australia will host in this decade and the Gold Coast is the first regional city ever to host a Commonwealth Games. As the Deputy Leader of The Nationals, who are committed to delivering for regional Australia, I am delighted that such a great city has been given the opportunity to showcase its great potential. Events of this scale significantly contribute to local economies and place Australia on the world sporting stage and promote exposure for business, trade, investment and tourism opportunities.

Sport has a unique ability to unite communities at all levels and has always had bipartisan support from all levels of Government. The Australian Government has contributed $154 million to the Queensland Government to support the Games.  This funding was used to build permanent infrastructure which will benefit the wider community and local sporting clubs well into the future.

A further $2 million has been provided for legacy programs, aimed to encourage more Australians to get active, more often.

Additionally, through the Department of Infrastructure, a further $95 million was provided to Stage 2 of the Gold Coast Light Rail and $15 million for upgrades to the training and administration facility at Metricon Stadium in Carrara, the venue for the athletics and the opening and closing ceremonies.

The Commonwealth Games, or Friendly Games, as they are fondly known, is always an exciting and memorable time for members of the Commonwealth family. They will experience all things games related in the space of a few short weeks – from living in the village, to making their debut on the field, court, track or pool.

These Games are unlike any other major sporting event, in that they bring together the Commonwealth family whose diverse faiths, races, languages, cultures and traditions make up 30 per cent of the world’s population. Our love of sport and friendly competition unites us, but the Commonwealth Games leaves a lasting legacy long after the last medal has been awarded. In many instances, it is what we take away from this event that has the potential to be a significant catalyst for change and growth in all societies.

This year’s Commonwealth Games, for the first time since they began in 1930, will award an equal number of medals to both women and men. Further highlighting the Commonwealth’s commitment to equality and inclusion, there will also be an equal number of men’s and women’s events across all sports during the 2018 Commonwealth Games Para-Sport program, which is being integrated and held at the same time as the Games. 

The Commonwealth Games, for many years, has served as an international platform to drive change and promote gender equality. In Australia in particular, we are in a golden era of women’s sport as it is going from strength to strength. There have been many iconic female sportswomen representing Australia at the Games, athletes such as Susie O’Neill and Liesel Jones who won 10 gold medals across their Commonwealth Games careers.  These women are ambassadors – they are role models who inspire change across the community. It is my hope that young girls and women watching their favourite sportswomen in action will be inspired to get out there and be active.

I wish all competing athletes and their coaches the best of luck at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games. No matter the result, we are all extremely proud of your efforts, and thank you for inspiring us to get active and participate in the sports we love.