The Gold Coast’s kilometres of golden coastline, hectares of lush green hinterland and legendary party atmosphere provide the perfect backdrop for the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Almost 7000 athletes and officials will converge on the Glitter Strip to take part in the largest multi-sport event on the planet outside the Olympics. Here’s everything you need to know before it kicks off on April 4.
The Gold Coast won the right to host the event in November 2011, beating a surprise bid from the rejuvenated Sri Lankan port city of Hambantota by 43 votes to 27. It will be the fifth time Australia plays host to the Commonwealth Games — following Sydney 1938, Perth 1962, Brisbane 1982 and Melbourne 2006 — but the first time the celebration of sport is being taken outside one of the country’s major capital cities.
The winning bid relied on the fact that most of the infrastructure was already in place, particularly venues like Carrara Stadium — the home of AFL franchise the Gold Coast Suns, which will host the opening and closing ceremonies as well as the athletics — and Robina Stadium, where the hugely popular Rugby Sevens will be based.
The Glitter Strip is one of the property development capitals of Australia, so a few extra building projects were never going to be any hassle. Gold Coast City unveiled a new light rail system in December 2017 ahead of the Comm Games, as well as an athletes village to accommodate 6600 competitors and officials in Southport.
The Gold Coast Aquatic Centre will host the blue-ribbon swimming program, and plenty of events — such as the road cycling, triathlon and marathon — can be viewed by the public from the street. The only sport that will take place outside of the Gold Coast is basketball, with matches in Brisbane, Cairns and Townsville.
The 2018 Commonwealth Games will be made up of 70 teams representing Commonwealth nations and territories from Anguilla to Zambia and everywhere in between. The athletes will compete in 275 events across 18 different sports between April 4 and April 15, living out the motto ‘Share the Dream’. The prize they’re all coveting? Medals designed by local Indigenous artist Delvene Cockatoo-Collins, fusing traditional Aboriginal motifs with the region’s iconic coastline. Oh, and then there’s the most important detail: the mascot, a blue koala with Indigenous markings that goes by the name of Borobi, an Aboriginal term for koala.
Gold Coast 2018 will be a Commonwealth Games full of firsts. The first time that the number of medals up for grabs will be equal for men and women. The first time women’s Rugby Sevens will be contested, following the roaring success of its debut at the Rio 2016 Olympics. And the first time beach volleyball will form part of the program — obviously the golden sands of Coolangatta beach were too much to resist.
There will be no shortage of world-class athletes on display in April, especially on the track. There’s Canadian Andre De Grasse, Usain Bolt’s heir apparent in the 100m dash. There’s Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson, fresh from becoming the first woman since ‘Flo-Jo’ Florence Griffith Joyner in 1988 to win the 100m and 200m at the same Olympics in Rio. And there’s headline magnet Caster Semenya dominating the women’s 800m for South Africa.
The athletics program at Carrara Stadium won’t hog all the limelight. Fiji are the Harlem Globetrotters of Rugby Sevens, and Australia’s golden girls will light up the first ever women’s event. Aussie teenage swimmer Kyle Chalmers made an overnight hero of himself at Rio 2016 with an unexpected gold in the 100m freestyle. And the English are sure to take home plenty of medals through triathlete brothers Alistair and Edward Brownlee plus swimmer Adam Peaty, who’s been described as the Michael Phelps of breaststroke.
Historically, Australia dominates the Commonwealth Games — over its 20 previous editions, Australia leads the total medal tally with 2218 (852 gold, 716 silver, 650 bronze) ahead of England’s 2008 (669, 670, 669) and Canada’s 1473 (469, 476, 528). The hosts will be desperate to climb back to the top of the tree after their arch rivals England knocked the Aussies off their perch at Glasgow 2014. Basking in the afterglow of the successful London 2012 Olympics, the Poms racked up 174 medals (58 gold, 59 silver, 57 bronze) to Australia’s 137 (49, 42, 46) four years ago — the first time the Aussies had been beaten since 1986, and a result they’ll be desperate to avenge on home soil.