Canadians feeling right at home in Gold Coast on eve of Commonwealth Games

GOLD COAST — As a major tourist destination, the Gold Coast is used to welcoming visitors who come to enjoy its sun, sand, and subtropical climate.

Canadian athletes and officials agree that the Australian city is also ready for the 21st edition of the Commonwealth Games.

“The Gold Coast is 100 per cent ready to go,” Canadian chef de mission Claire Carver-Dias says. “The venues were almost completely ready a year ago, they are further along than any other Games that I’ve been a part of.

“The athletes are thrilled with what they’ve experienced in the village, with their training venues, with their competition venues, We’ve heard nothing but praise for what [organizers] have done here.”

Canadian racewalker Evan Dunfee says that a trouble-free Games on an organizational level can translate to optimal results on the field of play.

“The Gold Coast has done a heck of a job of organizing everything, so it seems like that’s going to take any extra stress off of us,” Dunfee says. “From everything that I’ve seen, things seem to be operating really well and going smoothly.”

Reigning Commonwealth Games decathlete Damian Warner thinks the Gold Coast is ready – and so are fans.

“From what I’ve heard and what I’ve seen, the village looks really awesome and it seems like the people around here are pretty excited to watch the Games,” Warner says. “Athletes are obviously ready to go, so it should be good.”

Dunfee, Warner, and the rest of the Canadian athletics team may not move into their new digs until Thursday, but there’s already a sizeable Canadian contingent settled into the secured, 29-hectare village located in the Gold Coast suburb of Southport.

An estimated 6,500 athletes and officials are expected to call the Athletes’ Village home and the site offers all the comforts associated with home: retail, recreation, dining and medical facilities dot the village.

DOPING CONCERN DISTRACTION

One hiccup in the lead-up to the Games’ opening was the discovery of used needles and syringes in the Gold Coast Athletes’ Village over the weekend.

While the Indian team has been cleared of any doping violations, the discovery made by cleaners at the village violated the Games’ strict “no needles” policy in the Athletes’ Village, and the team was reprimanded following a hearing.

The Commonwealth Games Federation (GCF) says there is a zero-tolerance approach to doping and that any athletes caught cheating would be thrown out of the Games.

Dunfee, a vocal advocate for clean sport, says the way the Games’ anti-doping agents handled the situation leaves him optimistic that these Games will remain clean.

“I think everything was handled straight by-the-book,” he says. “Without casting aspersions on what the needles were being used for, it was ‘look we have a no-needle policy, you were aware of the no-needle policy, that’s an infringement and we’re going to investigate’ … I have complete confidence in them.”

RELAY ON THE HOME STRETCH

Proof that the start of the Games is imminent is that the Queen’s Baton Relay (think the Olympic torch relay but less flammable and the object is one-of-a-kind) is winding down on the Gold Coast.

Tuesday marks the 99th day of the 100-day relay inside of Australia, but the event started outside of the continent more than a year ago.

The journey began in March of 2017 at Buckingham Palace in London, when the Queen Elizabeth II placed her message to the Commonwealth and its athletes inside the baton.

After 388 days, 230,000 kilometres, and countless baton-bearers, that message will be read aloud at the opening ceremony by the Queen’s representative, her son, Prince Charles.

You can watch that address, and the full opening ceremony on Wednesday (watch on CBC Television and CBCSports.ca at 6 a.m. ET).

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