The 2018 Commonwealth Games have now begun, with 10 days of intense sporting action to enjoy amid the scenic backdrop of Australia’s Gold Coast.
It’s the fifth time Australia has hosted the Games, and 71 nations will compete in 18 different venues across 19 sports between 4-15 April. Organisers are hoping athletes, spectators, and viewers around the world will ‘share the dream’ – the official motto for the 2018 games.
What’s new for 2018?
The 10 core sports that make up any Commonwealth Games schedule remain in place: athletics, badminton, boxing, hockey, lawn bowls, netball, rugby sevens, squash, swimming and weightlifting.
One major change for the 2018 Games is the reintroduction of basketball, which is included at the expense of judo.
Perhaps unsurprisingly considering the glorious Gold Coast location, beach volleyball makes its debut at the Games on the lively Coolangata beachfront.
And it’s a breakthrough year for women’s sport with an equal number of events for men and women – a first for a major multi-sport event. Women’s rugby sevens will also make its debut on the Gold Coast.
By mid-April you’ll also be more than accustomed with Borobi, the Gold Coast’s official mascot. It might take you more than a passing glance to recognise he’s in fact a blue koala. But he looks cheerful.
The Gold Coast was born ready for hosting a major sporting event – with over 80% of venues already in place prior to winning the bid.
The athletics, opening and closing ceremonies will all take place in Carrara Stadium, a venue that has been given a shiny facelift and a temporary capacity of 35,000 to reflect its status as the beating heart of the Games.
The ground has enjoyed a long shelf life prior to the Games, having been built in 1987 as the home of (now defunct) Aussie Rules outfit Brisbane Bears and today plays host to the Gold Coast Suns, an AFL side formed in 2011.
27,000 capacity Robina Stadium will host the always-popular Rugby 7s, whilst the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre will host the swimming and diving events that will dominate the first week of the Games.
Cycling enthusiasts will instantly clock the name adorning the 2018 Commonwealth Games’ principal cycling venue, with key track events taking place at the Anna Meares Velodrome. Meares famously had an intense rivalry with Team GB national treasure Victoria Pendleton, pipping her to gold in a controversial sprint final at London 2012.
Opening ceremony – 4 April
Closing ceremony – 15 April
Athletics – 8-15 April
Track cycling – 5-8 April
Swimming – 5-10 April
The stars to watch out for in 2018…
The English swimming sensation is refusing to rest on his laurels after emerging as one of the stars of the 2016 Rio Olympics with his electrifying world record swim in the 100m breaststroke. Peaty is working towards ‘Project 56’ – breaking the 57 second mark for his event in Australia.
The biggest hope for the English athletics team, heptathlete KJT will be hoping to add to her first world title at the World Indoors in Birmingham earlier this year with another major honour on Australian soil. The 25-year-old has often flattered to deceive on the biggest stage and will be looking to close down her remaining critics here.
The Australian hurdler is being billed as the face of the Games but is facing a race against time to be fit for her 100m event taking place in just over a week’s time. If she can shrug off her Achilles injury, she will be looking to seal a third-straight Commonwealth Games gold in front of a roaring home crowd.
Update – Pearson has now pulled out of the competition after admitting defeat in her race for fitness.
With a few major stars of the track opting to miss this year’s Games, it falls on Elaine Thompson to sprinkle some stardust on the second week of the Games. The 25-year-old is the current reigning 100m and 200m Olympic gold medallist.
All image sources from PA Images