KEY to the success of the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games will be the enthusiasm of local people to get behind the event.

That's the message to come out of Friday's Young Professionals City Leaders Forum.

The shining new facilities will be ready in time, but there is angst over whether the community will embrace the Games, and how to manage the inevitable hangover.

The event's expert panel included Organising Committee CEO, Mark Peters; Mantra Group CEO, Bob East; Burleigh Brewing director, Peta Fielding; Griffith University president and vice chancellor, Professor Ian O'Connor; and Gold Coast Airport COO, Marion Charlton.

"We know the hard asset can be delivered," says East. "The challenge is getting the whole community to show pride and passion. The human element will be the defining moment of the Games."

East says the community needs to build competitive tension through its enthusiasm, and also volunteer at the event and engage with visitors, whether that is helping them finding their way around the city, or partying with them.

O'Connor agrees, "There is a great need for people to get up; we need people to be excited about it. It will be too late if it happens just 10 days before the event."

The Gold Coast should model itself on Glasgow, which is still riding the wave of its success hosting the 2014 event, which grew around its slogan - 'People Make Glasgow'.

"That resonated with the whole population," says Peters. "That is what needs to be achieved."

Already, the Games has given the State Government impetus to invest in the Gold Coast, which has in the past been overlooked in favour of marginal seats in North Queensland.

While there is concern about a post-Games hangover, there is confidence that the city is well placed to overcome this.

As Charlton, says, "The Commonwealth Games is the wedding, not the marriage; it is the beginning, not the end."

She points out the numerous development plans for the Coast already locked in for post 2018 as evidence that the city will keep on growing. The airport itself has plans to continue to grow.

The confidence that comes from successfully hosting the Games will keep the city moving after it is over.

"Hosting an event such as this gives you a boldness to keep looking at other opportunities - national governments and global companies will see us out there - and it is more than tourism, it is also about attracting industries," says Peters.

East adds that the games give the Gold Coat the opportunity to present its case as a competent manager of international events.

"There is major investment out of Asia and we are looking at how to react to that. If they see we are excited to deliver a Games, then they know we can deliver other events," he says.

And the flow-on is not just visitation, it is supply, he says.

"Attracting the people who want to put the hard dollars into infrastructure - five star hotels, three star hotels, tourism assets. The people who want to participate in infrastructure rebuilding," East says.

"It is a beautiful vehicle, but we have to be realistic about how we bring that message to market and that would differ from China to India."

Discussion moved on to the Gold Coast's image, and how it needs to evolve. The consensus is that the Gold Coast's image needs to become a more mature and sophisticated message around lifestyle.

"There is a lot of research showing us that we could be typecast as 'the comfortable pair of shoes'," says East.

"Everyone knows this destination, everyone understands it. There are images that come to mind when thinking about the Gold Coast and it has been quite consistent imagery about the fun aspects.

"You need to migrate this message. The consumer is doing a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of marketing. We know that what they are looking for is deeper experiences."

O'Connor says the party-town image of the Gold Coast hurts the education sector.

"Every story that comes out of the Coast which focuses on the destination as a low-end party destination actually impacts on the ability to attract students and attract researchers," he says.

"For us, part of the gain is that we want to tell a different story about the Coast - a story about the quality of the Coast."

Peters agrees that messages around lifestyle is what a new Gold Coast image can be built around and this can be done through the Commonwealth Games.

"The learnings across global events are that they can work for you. It brings infrastructure forward, adds skills and experiences; if you can do it right, the city can build around that success," he says.

"The success of the games won't be 4-15 April. We will judge in 10 years after the Games whether it was a success or not. We are heading towards a big tick."

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