“No one deserves nothing…you gotta get
out there and you gotta work for it”
Kurt Fearnley, Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games
Our City has just experienced its most monumental event in history. As a regional city with a population of 650K the opportunity to host one of the most viewed televised events in the world, really is quite mind blowing.
In the past few weeks international newspapers, including the New York Times and New Delhi Daily, have created editorial pieces about a City that would have put us top of mind all over the world. During the past two weeks; the action, excitement and fabulous scenery of our City has been shared with a cumulative global audience of 1.5 billion, including the BBC in the UK. Big deal? Absolutely.
We have to remind ourselves that although we live and breathe in this bubble called the Gold Coast, the majority of the 1.5 billion viewing audience that tuned in to the opening ceremony have most likely never heard of us until Prince Charles so beautifully announced us to the world... Goodd Cooost.
Literally overnight the Gold Coast has gone from never existing, into the mindsets of billions and now has the potential of positive outcomes that would never have been previously possible. Visiting, Investing, Trading. The potential long-term impact is priceless.
For us locals who are privileged to live here, we will be in the right place to benefit. But actually, we already have.
I believe the psychology of people’s reaction to the Games can be closely related to their reaction to life in general. The propensity of passion, showing up, enthusiasm, accountability, and the realisation that as Kurt put so eloquently, the buck stops with nobody else but you.
We have a lifestyle that is envied by the majority of the world, and now, due to the influence of GC2018, we have the beginning of an actual, real public transport system; a Health and Knowledge precinct that has elevated our local University into top 10% in the world status (which means our kids stay and we attract a greater talent pool), and world class sporting facilities that have put us on the map for the biggest events both in sports and business.
How extraordinary that we have access to all of this on our doorstep.
Perhaps we are so used to our privileged lifestyle, that we take it for granted? Let’s look at it from the perspective of the missing Cameroon team members.
Madonna King, leading journalist and reporter, provides a rhetoric.
“Police and border control officers have launched a national investigation to root out these wicked Australia-dwellers who don’t appreciate their mother country - which was incidentally classed as the most corrupt in the world in 1998.
Indeed, when you have a close look at Cameroon, it’s unlikely you’d find any of its residents complaining about the sun, surf and lifestyle of the country hosting these Commonwealth Games
Life expectancy is 56 for a man in Cameroon, compared with 82 in Australia.
Poverty is as endemic as corruption, with government subsidies for electricity and food diverting funds from education and healthcare.
Boko Haram, is a militant group wanting an Islamic state based on Sharia law, has waged repeated murderous attacks, with more than 1000 people in northern Cameroon estimated to have been kidnapped in the past few years.
Is it any wonder the serene surrounds of the Queensland town of Warwick, where the athletes acclimatised to Australia, might have been attractive?"
Mmmmm … in all the giggling about the missing team (me included) perhaps we overlooked this bit.
With all that we already have here on the Gold Coast and now this massive event on top, surely this is enough to make our community tingle with pride and excitement during this two week period?
Apparently its not everyone.
Being in Sydney and London for the Olympics were some of the highlights of my life. I can still remember the adrenalin, the rush, the memories and excitement. None of this was due to one particularly sporting event; it was due to the vibe and the people; the collectiveness and togetherness.
I have watched the games through my teenage children’s eyes. They have witnessed for the first time para-athletes competing at the same time as able-bodied; their thoughts of differentiation were remarkably nonchalant, just pure admiration.
I have watched my 70+ years old parents work ridiculously long shifts as volunteers, and seen and felt the buzz, joy and radiance from within them at being so involved. Not one complaint about the change to their lifestyle, just gratitude to be a part of this once in a lifetime event.
The point is, the Commonwealth Games was never an event based on an individual; one kid, one volunteer, one athlete, one suburb or one business.
This event is about a COLLECTIVE.
A Collective message about our City that is packaged together for the rest of the world to see, feel and experience; a collective group of outstanding individuals coming together for a team that they love; a collective of countries that in a world of conflict, unite for ten days; a collective of opportunities that as a community we have never had before.
Experiences like this are rare and perhaps this was not articulated as much as it should have been from the get go.
Perhaps there was too much emphasis placed on expectations over experiences.
How can anyone predict that there may or may not be a tangible benefit to any particular business over ten days especially when the 600K are here specifically for sports events and spread across a 70km stretch from one end of the Coast to the other? Who on earth can predict where they will buy their coffee, have their dinner, get their hair done or from which retail outlet their wardrobe will be updated?
What I did notice though was how different businesses embraced the busy days with the quiet. Regardless of what was happening to THEM they had enthusiastic staff, dressed up their office, wrote positive comments on their Facebook, took responsibility into their own hands to make the most of this opportunity. Compare this to others who spent the whole time actively promoting their dislike for the Games to the 600K audience that had come here from all over the world for ONE reason only. It's not easy to guess which businesses faired better.
However, that is not the point.
The Games were not about the ten days but a foundation of opportunity for the next decade.
There is no doubt that some of the messaging was miscommunicated and that some businesses really, really, hurt from the exaggerated predicted outcomes and this somehow became the most talked about piece of news throughout the entire Games that spread throughout our country and overseas.
However in the past week I have spoken to MANY businesses from small boutique to major shopping centres who recorded record numbers during this period and many others who, after adding up both Easter and the Comm Games period, have broken even.
One of these businesses openly said that they did not wish to put their success out there for fear of being ridiculed by those who did not have the same level of success.
I believe this is unfortunately a reflection on our society that is incredibly sad. Somehow we have got into such the negative hole that the positive vibes were actually afraid to find their voice!
The 2018 Games is a living, breathing example of how much our society has changed in the past ten years.
We have created a world based on instant gratification, so much so that we if don’t get it ‘now’, is it worthwhile having? Add this to the social media voice which in this generation is perhaps louder than any business, organisation or Government. This can be a great thing but, it can also be a curse.
The thing about positive and negative vibes is that they are like flu symptoms; they are contagious. It can start by affecting just one person but the knock on is fast and furious without stopping to find a sense of measurement or clarity.
Because sometimes life just doesn't go the way you planned it.
And sometimes you are in circumstances that you don’t wish to be, that you feel is unfair. Sometimes you feel like things happened to you not because of you.
Many businesses felt that way.
And I’m sure many of the athletes did too.
Think Australian Claire Tallent: disqualified 2km away from a Gold Medal in the 20km walk, or the New Zealand netball team defeated in one of the major upsets of the games by Malawi.
There appears to be a difference though in the psychology of these athletes. They could blame the officials, the track, the crowd, their shoes, an illness, the facilities, the weather, but I did not hear any athlete focus on anything except their internal selves.
Because as hard at it is, complaining, yelling, screaming and blaming does not actually do anything to change the actual situation, only you can do that. And many in the City did this beautifully.
I believe the winners from these Games were those who embraced the good with the bad and ultimately took accountability into their own hands to make their own choices, whatever the circumstances around them.
Some highlights to remind us:
- The Gold Coast Company, GC Bike FIT, who rallied the community to provide reliable bikes for the Ghana bike team.
- The thousands of volunteers who could seriously all get jobs at Disney World tomorrow, based on their infectious smiles and warmth.
- Australian girls, Madeline, Eloise and Celia. waiting at the finish line of the 10,000m for Lineo from Lesotho who came in last.
- Two amazing sisters that despite their obvious competitiveness showed nothing but love and joy for each other’s victories.
- The spectators who waited until the end of each event to pay respect and applaud the recipients of medals,
- Kurt Fearnley… god where do we start? Think of his comment post the gold medal marathon win about the one hour and 20 minutes of giving back to the people who gave to him!
None of these moments were about the individual.
Embracing and being part of the Collective that will allow peace in their hearts and leave an impression on millions for years to come.
In the past weeks there has been been so much joy, disappointments, anger, opinions, figures, protests, laughter, excitement, and happiness.
There were mistakes, some big, that were made and these MUST be evaluated and lessons learned.
In terms of the Ceremonies, my personal opinion was that the Opening was beautiful and magical; a tribute to all walks of life and made me so proud to call this my home. In terms of the closing the only thing I will articulate is my frustration and disbelief for making a political female statement at the end of an event that had been so proudly about equality and inclusion. It just did not make sense.
But, when you peel back all the layers of this extraordinary event, it represents so many things in the complexity of this life.
For now I would like to express thanks and gratitude to my City for being hosts to these amazing Games.
For providing so much inspiration, pride, the ability to share once in a life time moments with my family, and an opportunity to reconnect with friends.
Finally…. to Kurt Fearnley, for a much needed kick up my own ass reminder that to make the most out of anything in life, you can’t sit around waiting, complaining, wishing and wondering.
You have to accept the circumstances, the pain, look internally for what is great and, even if you haven’t actually got it all quite figured out just yet, still get out there and bloody go for it!