ASB MAGAZINE: In a little over two-year’s time surfing will make its much-venerated Olympic debut in Tokyo 2020, however surfing was a surprise omission from the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. While the surfing world’s focus has been on the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach and now on Margret River World Tour events, logic suggests that the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games would have made the perfect lead up tournament for the revised Olympic surfing format.
International Surfing Association (ISA) President Fernando Aguerre campaigned to have the sport included at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games. Aguerre said he started lobbying organisers to include surfing on the programme at the same time as the federation launched their bid for inclusion at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
The ISA were successful in their attempts to have the sport included at the Tokyo Olympics, but were unable to achieve the feat for Gold Coast 2018.
“At times discussions looked promising and it felt like positive steps could be made,” said Aguerre
“However, these never materialised into concrete decisions.”
Surfing was not a compulsory or optional sport under Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) rules at the time the 2018 Commonwealth Games were awarded to Gold Coast in 2011. The sport has not achieved either status since, with the CGF providing an updated version under their Transformation 2022 strategic plan.
It appears that Organsiers decision not to include surfing was also due to the addition of beach volleyball to the Games programme.
Surfing Australia chief executive Andrew Stark said Gold Coast 2018 would miss out as a result of surfing not featuring prominently, with the sport also not included as a cultural activity.
“It’s unfortunate there’s no expression session or something like that,” said Stark.
“We’ve got all these professional surfers in town, so many world champions live in the area.”
With less than two years until the very first Olympic surfing champion will be crowned, organisers for the 2018 Commonwealth Games appear to have overlooked surfing as a bona fide competitive sport, despite the mascot for the Games being a surfing Koala and 3 times World Surfing Champion, Mick Fanning donating items for fundraising efforts. 1999 World Surfing Champion Mark Occhilupo also leant his strongest support behind the Gold Coast bid for the Commonwealth Games.
But surfing has been given a wide berth by organisers who favoured Surf Lifesaving and Beach Volleyball instead.
According to a spokesperson for the 2018 Commonwealth Games Organising Committee (GOLDOC), the sports program for the Tokyo 2020 Games is managed by the International Olympic Committee, which is separate to the Commonwealth Games Federation, which manages the sports program for the Commonwealth Games. As these organisations are separate, the sports programs often differ on the sports available at each Games.
However, a spokesperson for GOLDOC told ASB in April 2017 that the arts and cultural program hadn’t been finalised and they were talking with relevant bodies and key stakeholders.
“We are keen to see surfing showcased during the Commonwealth Games in April 2018 with potential for it to be a part of the arts and culture festival,” a GOLDOC spokesperson told ASBMAG.
“It would be great to include an opportunity for visitors from across the Commonwealth to enjoy and experience a sport that Australians embrace and excel at on the world sporting stage.
”GOLDOC, World Surfing (WSL), Surfing Australia and the City have had discussions to determine what the opportunities may be.
“Surfing is an iconic and international sport with a bevy of surfing stars calling the Gold Coast home. It is a sport that is symbolic of the Gold Coast and very much a part of our culture,” the GOLDOC rep told ASBMAG.
However, GOLDOC announced earlier this year that Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) members would be involved in a range of initiatives supporting the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018).
GOLDOC Chairman, Peter Beattie AC said the announcement is a result of an extensive community engagement program that was implemented to support the planning and preparation for the arts and culture program and GC2018 ceremonies.
“Our iconic surf life savers will continue their work during GC2018 to keep everyone safe, however they also play an important role in ceremonies and in welcoming athletes, officials and visitors from 70 nations and territories of the Commonwealth.
GOLDOC CEO Mark Peters said that the GC2018 arts and culture team had has been working with Ceremonies Production Company, Jack Morton Worldwide, and the Festival 2018 Creative Lead, Circa Contemporary Circus for over 18 months conducting extensive community consultation with a variety of stakeholders.
“The consultation has involved well over two thousand individuals and organisations, from community and indigenous groups, to local and regional arts practitioners and creative organisations across Queensland,” said Mr. Peters.