Evaluating the Commonwealth Games
by Callum Murray
The future of the Commonwealth Games remains under the microscope but figures from Gold Coast 2018 give proponents some ammunition with which to fight back. Author
20th February 2019, 09:28

A total of A$300 million ($214 million) in direct expenditure and ticket sales is estimated to have been contributed to the economy of Queensland in Australia by all visitors, participants and those attending last year’s Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, according to a newly-published evaluation report, based on a visitor study.

This comprised: expenditure of A$72 million on ticket sales; estimated direct expenditure by of A$4.6 million by those attending non-ticketed sports; estimated direct expenditure of A$11.7 million by other visitor groups; estimated direct expenditure of A$67 million from travel to other parts of Queensland; and direct expenditure of A$145 million from volunteers, ticketed sport and visitors to an associated festival.

The figures appear to help to bolster the position of the games against critics who question their relevance in an-already crowded international sport schedule.

They also provide ammunition for those campaigning for the Gold Coast region to mount a bid to host the Olympic Games in 2032.

Peter Beattie, chair of the GC2018 organising committee

The report found that an estimated total of 591,332 visitors attended or participated in GC2018 across nine visitor categories. Of these, 64 per cent were locals or day-trippers, 28 per cent were domestic overnight visitors, and 8 per cent were overseas visitors.

Just 37 per cent of overseas visitors had visited the Gold Coast previously, meaning 63 per cent were new to the city. Meanwhile, 95 per cent of interstate visitors had been to the Gold Coast before, along with all of the visitors who lived in other parts of Queensland.

The report, compiled on behalf of the Queensland’s government’s office of the Commonwealth Games, concluded that this indicated that GC2018 was “a successful driver of both new and repeat visitation.”

On average, respondents to the survey that formed the basis of the report attended four sporting event sessions during their GC2018 visit, with overseas visitors attending an average of six sessions and locals attending an average of three.

Visitors to ticketed sporting events totalled 331,000, while 159,000 visitors attended non-ticketed sporting events and a further 274,000 attended an associated festival. A total of 93 per cent of visitors rated the overall sporting event experience as excellent or good.

Soon after the games, Peter Beattie, chair of the GC2018 organising committee, claimed that a potential Queensland bid to host the 2032 Olympics was boosted by the success of the Commonwealth Games.

Following meetings with visiting International Olympic Committee officials, Beattie said that they had been impressed by the games, but warned that an Olympic Games could only be staged with the participation of the federal government (the Commonwealth Games were backed by the state government).

Beattie said that hosting the games in south-east Queensland would be likely to cost at least as much as the $12 billion that Tokyo is set to spend staging the 2020 Olympics.

He said: “The two weaknesses are that you need a big stadium and the $12 billion. Other than that, we could do it tomorrow. No state government can do the heavy lifting of investing in an Olympics, as the state government has done with the Commonwealth Games.”

Annastacia Palaszczuk, the premier of Queensland, subsequently said that she was “open” to the possibility of a bid from the state to host a future edition of the Olympic Games, albeit such a bid would be conditional on public support and minimising costs.

She said: “I am open to the conversation, but we’re going to take the Queensland public and the Australian public with us.

“But only if we can talk to the IOC about the size of the venues to keep the costs to an absolute minimum.”

The opening ceremony of the GC2018 Commonwealth Games

The Queensland state government is reported to have invested A$1.5 billion into delivering the 2018 Commonwealth Games, considerably more than the total of £543 million ($751 million/A$979 million) spent by Glasgow in hosting the 2014 Commonwealth Games, but much less than the $4.1-billion cost of the 2010 event held in Delhi – the most expensive Commonwealth Games ever.

Ahead of the games, the organising committee estimated that GC2018 would generate A$2billion in economic benefits, with the estimated budgeted value of the procurement programme alone resulting in the award of A$550 million worth of significant contracts.

Costs were reduced through the use of temporary facilities, it was claimed at the time, with 80 per cent of games venues already in place before the games construction programme began and temporary facilities used to reduce the risk of building ‘white elephants’.

Meanwhile, the organising committee reported a surplus of A$37.3 million which it said it would return to the Queensland government, after spending A$1.05 billion on hosting the games, while bringing in revenues of A$1.08 billion. This was despite falling slightly short of its commercial revenue target (96 per cent achieved) and also failing to reach its 65-per-cent target ‘level of engagement in the games’ (57 per cent achieved), measured by ticket sales, social media following and surveyed spectator experience.

However, ticket sales alone were regarded as an outstanding success, with 1.2 million, or 98 per cent, of available tickets sold and issued.

An initial analysis of the commercial revenues derived from the GC2018 games suggests that they outperformed the Glasgow 2014 games, albeit inflation has not been taken into account and the currency exchange rate used is the one that was in place on the final day of competition at Glasgow 2014 (see table below).

Commonwealth Games: Glasgow 2014 and GC2018 commercial revenues compared

Commercial revenue source

Glasgow 2014 (£m)

Glasgow 2014 (A$m)

Gold Coast 2018 (A$m)

Sponsorship

43.6

78.7

83.9

Ticketing

33.9

61.2

66.0

Broadcast rights

33

59.6

65.4

Other

5.7

10.3

7.4

Merchandising and licensing

1.8

3.2

2.8

Total

118

213.1

225.5

Source

Glasgow 2014

Currency exchange rate at 3 Aug 2014

GC2018 

The GC2018 evaluation report (based, as it is, on a visitor study) does not enable any conclusions to be drawn relating to the overall costs versus the benefits of hosting the games. The survey included 13,780 responses from those attending the games.

However, it found that 75 per cent of local residents agreed that the Gold Coast is “growing into a world-class city with distinct strengths.” Meanwhile, 92 per cent of visitors rated the Gold Coast as an excellent or good place to visit, while 87 per cent said that they were likely to return.

The report concluded: “It is estimated that over 220,000 visitors are likely to return to the event city, and approximately 218,000 new visitors may travel to the event city on the recommendation of a friend or family. This equates to a potential 440,000 future visitors.”

In December 2017, Birmingham in England was formally unveiled as the host of the 2022 Commonwealth Games, which are projected to cost £750 million ($1 billion), after Durban in South Africa was stripped of the games over financial concerns.

A key part of Birmingham 2022's pledge to the CGF was to deliver a “low cost, low risk, high quality games,” with 95 per cent of necessary competition venues already in place. An aquatics centre is the sole venue needing to be built.

Sportcal