Every country has one city that houses the essence of the nation.
London, for example, exudes Britishness. In every inch of its cobbled lanes and monumental squares, in its ancient nooks and modern crannies, you’ll find the story of Britain itself. This great city reflects the glories and achievements of the people of Britain past and present.
What is the Australian equivalent? What is the one city in the Great South Land that embodies the spirit of this young nation?
Sydney, with its impressive harbour and colonial history, will get plenty of votes. So too Melbourne, an urban shrine to Australia’s love of all things sport.
Adelaide reflects a more genteel country, built by free settlers with a taste for fine wine and excellent food, while Perth, Brisbane and Hobart all display their versions of the nation’s personality.
But only one place tells the whole story of Australia. Only one place truly embodies all the elements that constitute the Australian experience. That place is the Gold Coast.
As the host city for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, the Gold Coast is soon to shine on the world stage, a circumstance that will surprise many people who know the place only as a tourist playground in the state of Queensland famous for its beaches.
Certainly, tourism has given the city a healthy start in life. Renowned for its laid-back attitude, surf culture and myriad natural attractions, the warmth of both the Gold Coast’s weather and its people have made it one of Australia’s premier tourist destinations.
But what attracts holidaymakers has also attracted entrepreneurs and innovators, who have recognised that the Gold Coast is the perfect place to grow businesses, build enterprises, raise families and enjoy a great lifestyle. As Australia’s largest non-capital city, it doesn’t carry any baggage. This is a community that grew from scratch. It is purely modern Australian and not a hybrid that has evolved out of colonial beginnings and imported cultures like the capitals.
It has always had an entrepreneurial flair, wielded by people with vision who turned a community of beach shacks into an emerging global city. The beaches are still there and the surfers are still there, only now a lot of those surfers are business leaders and medical pioneers, educators and infrastructure experts, builders of roads and towers, generators of ideas and jobs and wealth.
The Gold Coast has many arrows in its quiver. For instance it is a vibrant education hub hosting three world-class university campuses, and is fast emerging as a centre for medical research.
Unemployment is low and housing affordability is high compared with the capitals, and public transport has received a huge boost with the construction of a light-rail system.
It has a flourishing cultural life, boasts excellent and varied cuisine, is home to a burgeoning brewing industry and its international airport brings in hundreds of thousands of international visitors every year.
It is a place where world champions are born and raised. Surfing legend Mick Fanning calls the Gold Coast home. Olympic champion hurdler Sally Pearson lives there. Masters champion Adam Scott comes back to the Gold Coast when he’s not prowling the fairways of world golf.
And long before it won the right to host next year’s Commonwealth Games, the Gold Coast was already one of Australia’s premier sporting centres.
Britain already knows this. In 1996 Great Britain won a single gold medal at the Atlanta Olympic Games. In 2000, using its Gold Coast training base as the platform for its Sydney Games campaign, it went on to win 12 gold medals – its best performance in 80 years.
The Gold Coast has teams in two of the country’s national football competitions – the National Rugby League and the Australian Football League – and regularly hosts international golf tournaments.
In the Magic Millions it has one of Australia’s richest horse-racing carnivals, and the Quicksilver Pro at Coolangatta is one of the stops on the world surfing tour. Throw in other international events like the World Triathlon Series and this year’s Sudirman Cup featuring the world’s best badminton players, and you get the picture – the Gold Coast has an enviable and growing pedigree in staging top-class events.
You can expect that to surge after GC2018 with a program being developed to attract more international events to take advantage of the facilities built for the competition.
The City of Gold Coast pulls out all stops to entice businesses and investment to the region, an example being its film attraction unit. The Gold Coast’s film industry has produced international blockbusters like Thor: Ragnarok, Pirates of the Caribbean 5, Unbroken, San Andreas, and The Chronicles of Narnia, to name just a few.
New York Film Academy director Jennie Hughes tells why it has become a favourite place for the world’s film-makers to work their magic.
“If you’re looking at filming options in terms of settings, the Gold Coast has great beaches, it’s got hinterland, it’s got rainforests and it’s all in a very small space,” she said.
It’s not just locations. The expertise of local crews and the extensive production facilities are world class. One of the 2018 Commonwealth Games venues is a significant part of that film-making infrastructure.
Village Roadshow Studios’ Sound Stage 9 was built with financial assistance from the State Government Games infrastructure fund to host the squash tournament. The largest sound stage in the southern hemisphere, it has already been used to film the latest Thor blockbuster and its giant water tank will be used this year during the filming of Aquaman.
Village Roadshow Studios President Lynne Benzie is naturally proud of her company’s state-of-the-art facility, and says Sound Stage 9 would provide an ongoing legacy for the Gold Coast as an all-purpose venue as well as enhancing the film and television industry in Queensland.
“With the addition of Sound Stage 9, and three water tanks, Village Roadshow Studios cements its position as a world-class facility holding huge appeal for productions,” she said.
If the Gold Coast is a true reflection of Australia’s youthful drive and energy, then its Mayor, Tom Tate, is a great example of the can-do spirit that is transforming the city into an economic and cultural powerhouse. A self-made millionaire who drives a Ferrari and can bench-press 130kg, he is a straight shooter who is unashamedly pro-business and pro-Gold Coast.
His philosophy is simple: “Business growth, job creation and strong families are all linked together. I try to give this message every chance I get,” he says.
He is overseeing a massive investment in infrastructure as his city prepares to welcome an influx of visitors for the Games.
It is an opportunity for him to show off the Gold Coast as it really is, compared to what many people think it is.
“We want to share that the Gold Coast is now a very cosmopolitan, multicultural, sophisticated city,” he says.
“We have matured. We are a world destination now.”