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The Gold Coast Transformation

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The recent Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018) was the largest sporting event the Gold Coast has ever seen, and certainly one of the biggest Australia will see this decade. 

Over 670,000 visitors, as well as 6,600 athletes and officials from 70 member territories, were anticipated for the 11-day competition. It ran in April and required over 15,000 volunteers to bring it together.

It was no small undertaking and one that could make or break the future for some communities on the Gold Coast. 

This landmark event in the calendar kick-started infrastructure projects, venue upgrades, and construction builds. It was no small undertaking and one that could make or break the future for some communities on the Gold Coast.

Jobsite spoke to Professor Paul Burton, Professor for Urban Management and Planning at Griffith University, to understand more about the success of the construction and infrastructure projects behind the Games and its potential legacy for the region.

An Impetus to Build

Griffith University has been involved in the Games in a variety of capacities: as a major sponsor, through an internship program in partnership with the Games, and research work into the legacy benefits of the Games.

For starters, as Professor Burton says, the Games created an impetus to kick-start a number of vital projects, including the development of the light rail.

“We’d been talking about this for a while, and this could have gone on for a while. The Gold Coast couldn’t have put forward a plausible bid (for the Games) without building a light rail.”

The work started two years ago, and stage two was completed before Christmas. According to Professor Burton, “It’s been a real force for good in the city.” After all, this is a big step towards the Gold Coast City Council’s 2031 goal of taking light and heavy rail south to the border and the Gold Coast Airport, as part of a strategy to attract business to the region. 

“It’s been a real force for good in the city.” 

What is more, the Athlete’s Village will be a major lasting development for the Gold Coast. The project was led by Grocon and seemingly completed to a high standard, on schedule, and within budget. While some are speculating that the site risks becoming a ‘pseudo university campus,’ Professor Burton takes a different view.

“I’ve seen and read enough to hear that this was the best Athlete’s Village people have ever stayed in. The Athlete’s Village will become a residential heart for the health and knowledge precinct. It will provide a very different place to other science and innovations parks you find in Australia, such as Macquarie Park in Sydney, because it will have people living right in the centre of it. Generally, residential areas are around the edge of such sites, whereas we’ll have it right in the middle.

“I think the architectural and design standards are brilliant. All of the units have been built to a higher-than-normal standard of accessibility, including reinforcements in parts of the walls to attach grab rails, wider door frames, and the correct height for work tops and toilets.”

A Lasting Legacy

GC2018 fits into a greater vision for the region—to be seen as more than a holiday destination and to start working against the ‘brain drain’ the Gold Coast has seen in recent years. This shift in perception is something Professor Burton will be working on measuring as part of Griffith University’s research into the legacy of the games.

The burning question is: Will the sporting spectacle have a lasting impact on how the Gold Coast is perceived by the rest of the world, and particularly businesses that are considering moving into the region?

In the short term, the Games opened up opportunities for local construction firms to take on contracts as part of the construction phase. It also created upskilling opportunities as local educational institutions, such as Griffith University and Tafe Queensland, put on training programs to ensure there were enough tradespeople to meet the demand for skills locally.

“A key pillar of the economy for a long time has been the construction sector, so we have a lot of tradespeople up here." 

“A key pillar of the economy for a long time has been the construction sector, so we have a lot of tradespeople up here,” remarks Professor Burton. “The fact that there were major projects that were stimulated, expanded, brought forward, and created because of the Games absorbed a lot of our trade workforce that would otherwise have been struggling to find work.

“Before it was announced that we were going to host the Games, we were in the middle of a recession, and all our tradespeople were driving up to Brisbane to find work. So the Games, I would say, kept them employed locally.”

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