THE chief executive at the helm of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) arrived on the Gold Coast and sent a clear message – that the 2018 Games cannot be bought.

Mike Hooper (pictured left) emphasised the focus is on technical evaluation, including strict controls over any incentives a candidate city can consider. It follows the uproar when cash payments to CGA’s (Commonwealth Games Associations) occurred during the 2010 and 2014 processes.

“They are no longer permitted. Instead, candidates may consider support by way of sport development initiatives and programs; focusing on preparation and planning for participation in the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Such programs will be determined and managed by the CGF directly, this way that ensures they are both administered properly and are applied for the intended purposes,” says Hooper.

“We’ve capped such support at $5 million pounds (AUD $7.6m) and both bidders have indicated that level will be submitted, so therefore it’s not an influencing or deciding factor in the decisions to be made. There’s been some high profile media commentary about other major events bid processes lately, and I’m pleased to say that through the CGF processes we work to ensure all checks and balances are indeed in place to prevent anything other than a fair and transparent process.”

At the press conference at the Sofitel Broadbeach, Hooper was reluctant to speak about qualitative measurements or safety and security issues related to last year’s Games in Delhi.

“(The bid manual) guides our overall process over the next four days as we work through the evaluation process and sets specifications and information requirements in clear and unequivocal terms for each of the cities,” he says.

“It’s important to understand that this is a technical evaluation, a series of very specific questions. We will be reporting against compliance to the requirements of hosting the Commonwealth Games, things like a ‘general feel’ – we don’t get into that.

“I’m not going to comment on what people may feel happened in Delhi and how that may impact going forward, the reality is we have two very strong bids and we’re here to assess them.”

Alongside Hooper, CGF Evaluation Commission chairperson Louise Martin (pictured, right) will embark on a four-day tour of the Gold Coast’s infrastructure and facilities.

The Scot was instrumental in securing the 2014 Commonwealth Games for Glasgow and, despite the competing bid from Sri Lanka’s Hambantota being largely ‘virtual’, says the 2018 bid is a 'competitive race'.

“(They are) two very different kinds of bid, but with each having its own strengths and challenges,” she says.

“The role of the CGF Evaluation Commission is to undertake a detailed technical review of the bids and one month prior to the CGF’s general assembly, to be conducted on the 11th of November this year, to publish the report which will be thorough and detailed.

“This report will be released publicly and will be provided to each of the Commonwealth Games Associations who will ultimately determine through an open vote who will host the 2018 Commonwealth Games.”

Premier Anna Bligh says the next four days are when the Gold Coast gets to really start the hard yards of proving itself, leading up to the vote.

“The Gold Coast is a very special place. (It’s) already a well established international destination but its reputation as a home for world-class sporting events is growing, and that’s why we think the time is right for the Gold Coast to be on the world stage for an event like the Commonwealth Games,” she says.

“We’ve been with (the commission) for a couple of hours this morning already and they are applying a very rigorous and detailed effort to assessing the bid.

“What I hope the commission will leave Queensland with at the end of this week is a very clear sense that the Gold Coast is not only a city with all the technical capability of hosting a great Commonwealth Games, but a city that is excited by the prospect.”

Gold Coast Mayor Ron Clarke says a successful bid would fast track proposed major infrastructure projects, but dismissed the notion the games are ‘critical’ for stimulating the city’s economy.

“Nonetheless it’s a great focus point and if we’re able to win it would make a big difference to the speed in which infrastructure would be built. It would bring forward infrastructure that would otherwise take five or ten years further,” says the Olympian.

Olympic and Commonwealth Games swimmer-turned property developer Mark Stockwell is the president of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Bid Committee. He says the city ‘hasn’t got it in the bag, but we’re confident’.

“We’re putting forward a very good bid. The fact of the matter is these sorts of major international sporting events are an absolute economic powerhouse for the community who gets the opportunity to present them,” says the Stockwell Group managing director.

“That’s why we’re seeing such strong competition from Sri Lanka; they obviously see the same thing. There’s certainly a magic that comes with winning a bid like this.”

Martin and Hooper will also visit the Brisbane venues to be utilised for the 2018 Games before repeating the process in Hambantota via a two-day stopover in Singapore. The official decision will be announced on November 12 (local time).

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