Gold Coast chiefs to deliver ‘hub of excellence’

Gold Coast 2018 chiefs  have been in London this week to launch the Queen’s Baton relay and also to host a special world press briefing for British media. PHILIP BARKER reports.

Organisers have promised journalists  a “hub of media excellence” when they attend the Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast next April.

They even plan to have Usain Bolt there, though before you rush to re-write his retirement story, they won’t actually expect him to run, but simply act as a Games ambassador.

“We are in talks trying to get him to come in some capacity,” confirmed GOLDOC supremo Peter Beattie. “We will do everything we can to get Usain to the Gold Coast for the Games. He won’t be competing, but if he does come, even just to say hello, we’ll roll out the red carpet for him.”   

Bolt only competed in the 4x100m  relay at Glasgow 2014 but he still managed to bring the main press centre to a standstill.

GLASGOW GOLD: Usain Bolt’s final Commonwealth Games appearance, next to England silver medallist Adam Gemili (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Financial constraints may well limit the press corps from the home nations. Certainly the expense of a world press briefing in Australia was expected to be beyond the budget of most media organisations here, so the hosts arranged a separate gathering aimed at British media in London, beneath the chandeliers at Australia House.

The  world press briefing next month will be streamed live. The material will be available afterwards on an encrypted Youtube  channel. The first phase of accreditation for journalists and photographers opens on April 3.

This is press by numbers, with more specific details needed later. Gold Coast 2018 are expecting some 3,000 journalists and photographers to report the Games.

 “We never underestimate the investment and commitment that the media have made,” said Commonwealth Games Federation chief executive David Grevemberg. “The media ensures the vision does come alive. Without the media we would become irrelevant, we would not resonate.” 

The Games will follow the example of recent Olympics so the press centre is next to the international broadcast centre, from where BBC television and radio will cover the Games. It is hoped that the Beeb’s team will be more clued up than those on the Mall for this week’s launch of the Queen’s Baton relay which they described as a “torch”.

We’ll make you laugh, we’ll make you cry, we’ll make you drunk, promises mayor

Accommodation will be as close as possible to the press centre. All accommodation will have wifi on tap, useful for reporters filing to UK deadlines at the wrong end of the day. Prices are expected to start at 125 $AUS per night.

Press Operations manager Mandy Keegan, a familiar face to many from London 2012 and Glasgow 2014, asks that accommodation reservations are made early and those media organisations booking fewer than nine rooms will be expected to pay in June 2017. There is scope to alter or cancel these later in the year.

“We have secured an allocation of rooms,” confirmed Keegan. “We have a good range of properties around the Gold Coast as close to the main press centre as possible.”   

An intranet Games news service will provide biographies. Organisers have given assurances it will be “editorially independent at all times”. It will be made available free of charge to accredited journalists and can also be accessed by those working back home for accredited media outlets, an idea first used at the London 2012 Olympics.

GOLD COAST DIVING VENUE (Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

The news service will also feature audio feeds online from the media conference areas to assist reporters. The familiar pigeon holes, missing in Rio might yet make a return but on a much-reduced basis. Many will  remember the torrent of paper at previous Games. Organisers will print out results on demand.

Negotiations are still continuing about services offered to non-rights holders. An announcement on that, and wifi within the main press centre, will be made next month at the world press briefing in Australia.

The heart normally sinks when you hear a public relations officer, in this case Marcus Taylor, talk about “complete transparency” but the GOLDOC representatives cheerfully fielded the more awkward questions without the kind of management speak that sometimes rears its ugly head at gatherings of this type. Even Brexit got a mention.

Organisers are conscious they have to keep non-accredited and non-rights-holding broadcasters happy, so there will be another media centre outside the official chain-linked area. It will offer filming opportunities throughout the city for non-rights-holding broadcasters as well as free wifi. It might just be the only press centre for a major Games to be sited  on a beach.

“My biggest worry is how far the tide is coming in, more than media connectivity,” joked Gold Coast tourism boss Mark Howell.

It was 1982 the last time the Commonwealth Games was held in this part of the world. The sun shone on Brisbane.

dead heat: Allan Wells and Mike McFarlane (Tony Duffy/Getty Images)

Allan Wells and Mike McFarlane dead-heated over 200m, Steve Cram won his first major gold medal, Daley Thompson was at the height of his powers in the decathlon, June Croft did the sprint double in the pool and  Willie Wood  won the men’s singles in bowls.

Women’s events were few on the ground. In 2018 there will be gender equality for the first time and the Games will be much larger in scope with some 6,600 competitors and officials from 70 nations and territories.

It all begins on April 4, 2018 and Gold Coast mayor Tom Tate jokingly promised journalists plenty of material.

He said: “You’ll get laughter, the quirky stories. If you don’t get them come and see me, I’ll make them up! We’ll make you laugh we’ll make you cry, we’ll make you drunk.”