Dear valued subscriber,
The saying goes that opportunity only knocks once. Premier Daniel Andrews this week announced the state government had entered into exclusive negotiations for regional Victoria to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games. This is great news for regional cities and rural towns.
When Melbourne hosted the games in 2006, the exercise cost about $1 billion to state, federal and local governments and delivered about $1.7 billion of economic benefit, according to analysts PwC.
When the Gold Coast hosted the games in 2018, the economic benefit was about $2 billion. A Queensland government report found an extra $2.5 billion was pumped into that state's economy in the following year. It is clear the exercise is worth it, especially for the state's pandemic-crippled tourism industry. But there would also be health benefits too, with the games inspiring participation and competition for years to come.
Some south-west leaders like Corangamite Shire mayor Ruth Gstrein and Moyne Shire counterpart Ian Smith are bullish about the possibilities. They can see the potential benefits for the region, tourism, infrastructure, including sporting facilities, housing and roads, plus the obvious social pluses. Warrnambool mayor Richard Ziegeler is more cautious, worried about financial outlays. But the costs will be more than recouped based on past history.
The region needs housing. What could an athlete village do for us long after the closing ceremony? Could it become social housing, worker or tourist accommodation?
The south-west has natural assets and generally speaking acceptable sporting facilities but compared with other regions, we are behind the eight-ball. We could host road cycling (if our roads were upgraded), triathlon, athletics, beach volleyball, bowls, shooting, netball, basketball, table tennis. But our facilities whether used for qualifying events or competition, need upgrades for the international stage. Athletes need places to train in the lead up too. The city council has listed Warrnambool's swimming complex as a major upgrade priority. Imagine rebuilding the 50-metre outdoor pool and creating stadium seating on the hill? Or creating a new facility somewhere else?
There are calls to upgrade the city's indoor sports stadium, which, with three basketball courts, pales into insignificance behind Bendigo's 10 and Ballarat's eight, and their centres can hold big crowds. Back in 2006 when the games were in Melbourne, Ballarat's basketball centre was upgraded just so it could hold qualifying matches. At worst, this is what Warrnambool needs to be aiming for. The city's stadium was built with options for more courts at a later date. That date is now.
The games will likely be a once-in-a-generation opportunity. State and federal governments will inject cash into regional facilities.
This is our chance to try and catch up. The city council, with support from the region's councils, needs to leap into action because it has an opportunity to create a legacy like no other. We need strong, decisive advocacy. We need a vision. Maybe the city council has one, because it was identified as a potential host several years ago. If it doesn't, it has time to act. But the clock's ticking.
Surgery waiting lists are lengthy with new stats highlighting the far-reaching impacts of COVID on hospital workforces.
Earlier this week we brought you the story about a Kirkstall man who vowed to remain in Ukraine despite the possibility of a Russian attack. He believed the locals needed to be supported.
Exciting development with a $2m upgrade completed at Glenormiston, paving the way for resurgent agriculture courses at the South West Tafe campus.
One of the region's historic hotels is on the market as long-time owners look to take a step back.
It was great to see three high-profile Warrnambool residents join forces as they tackle the low-profile, incurable blood cancer myeloma. Congrats to the Rotary Club of Warrnambool Central for organising a walk on February 27 which aims to raise funds for research into myeloma. It's a cause worth getting behind.
Warrnambool's Portuguese Festival is on next weekend and this piece about one man's quest to have Portuguese explorers recognised for first mapping our coast, long before the British and Dutch, is well worth a read.
Today is a special day in the history of the Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Classic. For the first time, a women's race is being held from Colac to Warrnambool. Organisers must have been thrilled to see so many entries for the inaugural Warrnambool Women's Classic, which finishes in Raglan Parade, as part of the festival of cycling, about 12.30pm.
The cycling classic provided my favourite pic of the week, the one above of Warrnambool's Jim Dart, who was named this year's legend of the race. Check out the story here.
Don't forget to check out a selection of other stories which made headlines this week, below.
Have a great week.
Greg Best, Editor, The Standard
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