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Imperfect score for Gold Coast's 'equality' games

  • 24 April 2018


The Gold Coast Commonwealth Games put on public display the best and the worst of our social values. The final scorecard was largely positive with the major exception being the unnecessarily nationalistic approach of our media coverage.

Our leaders were unusually cooperative. The Prime Minister, the Queensland Premier and the Gold Coast Mayor each took pride in their role in funding or supporting the games. Their relationship was probably much less easy beneath the surface and some leaders demanded their personal time in the sun, which explained the interminable speeches at the closing ceremony. These were later the subject of an apology. But the federal-state-local relations effort did seem to be largely collaborative.

The games' sporting competitions themselves illustrated a healthy mix between collective and individual effort. It takes a village to raise an elite sportsman or sportswoman. We praise the talent and sheer hard work of individuals. But competitors in individual sports acknowledged that they don't succeed through their own efforts alone, but always rely on support by family, schoolteachers, coaches and communities.

In team sports the collective spirit was even more visible. Such teamwork often demands the sacrifice of the individual to the larger good. Each team member is given a specified role. Not to be a team player can mean failure no matter how talented an individual is. In these team sports each member gets recognition when medals are won. Everyone wins together.

An even better illustration of selfless teamwork occurs when teams work together in individual sports like cycling. In the longer bike races the team members, each with a role specified by the coach, sacrificed themselves so that one member of the team would ultimately be successful. This is team work at its best.

The games were also a positive model for Australian society in other ways, illustrating values in which sport is often well ahead of society.

The first was in the equal recognition of the rights and skills of men and women. There was a commitment to an equal gender balance still not practised in wider society. The balance wasn't perfect, but it was pretty good. The number of medals available to men and women was equal. In this respect the games were better than the cultural norms of some of the competing countries. Sports men and women emerged as leaders for gender equality in public life generally.


"Wheelchair racer Kurt Fearnley, one of the stars of the whole program, believed