One of Queensland’s most saleable commodities – the open, friendly nature of its people – was highlighted to great effect during the 11 days of the Commonwealth Games just concluded on the Gold Coast.
What a pity that generosity and gregariousness was marred by poor choices at both the opening and closing ceremonies.
Perhaps the organisers could have taken a leaf out of the books of those in the west putting up exclusion fences – when you leave something out, the whole show suffers.
The decision not to have the athletes enter Metricon Stadium at Cararra en masse, waving and dancing as we’re used to seeing, has already been well covered by social media from the moment it became apparent that this element had been left out of the closing ceremony in favour of speeches by dignitaries.
Just as importantly, the invaluable contribution that primary produce makes to the state’s export industry and our reputation as food innovators, was left out of the world showcase that the opening ceremony provided.
Given that the Queensland government’s own Trade 2018 website acknowledges that “our production capacity sets us apart globally...with 83 per cent of land being used for agricultural production...exporting $7.8 billion worth of food products”, the lack of any such feature in the performances was a slap in the face for our producers, particularly those on the Gold Coast hinterland.
As the website devoted to the trade and investment program that ran in conjunction with the Games goes on to say, “the Gold Coast has developed a niche food and beverage industry, leveraging the broader agricultural strengths of Queensland”.
“The ability to source fresh produce within the regions is fundamental to the city’s thriving culinary scene, which contributes to the success of the region’s visitor economy,” it proudly proclaims – so why be small-minded and not give that a boost when the world is watching on?
So much else at the Games left nothing but good vibes.
There were the giggling female Fijian athletes boarding the light rail at Broachbeach South clutching bagfuls of goodies purchased nearby at Pacific Fair.
There was the utter jubilation of Cameroon triple jumper, Marcel Mayak II, who hopped, stepped and hang glided to a personal best and his stated aim of reaching the podium on the world stage – he won a bronze medal.
And there were all the Borobi Boogie spectators dancing happily for the entertainment of all on the big screen at various stadium venues, intertwined with Welsh-like renditions of Sweet Caroline - “hands, touching hands, reaching out, touching me, touching you” – that brought out all those warm Commonwealth of Nations sentiments you’d expect.
Only the shooters would have tasted the bittersweet feeling of perhaps competing for the last time at a Commonwealth Games, thanks to a decision to leave the sport out of the competition schedule at Birmingham in four years time.
Any permanent omission would be a great shame – there were centuries of tradition as well as concentration and marksmanship of the highest order on show at Belmont.
As for the omission of our world-class food producers, perhaps it would bring home their contribution if we were to count up all the burgers devoured, all the fish and chips licked off fingers, all the satay sticks relished, and all the beverages quenching thirsts at 19 sports over 11 days.
With five days to go, Queensland Tourism Minister, Kate Jones, was saying visitor numbers were tracking towards 680,000 – despite retail disappointment at lower than expected spending in beachside shops, that’s a lot of potential food consumed.
Primary producers are essential to events such as the Commonwealth Games but are always taken for granted. The opening and closing ceremonies were opportunities lost to highlight this.
– Sally Cripps, NQR/QCL senior journalist