“A bolt from the blue” was the way Yarrawonga Yacht Club Commodore Dennis Baker described news Commonwealth Games sailing events could be held locally in 2030.
“No – I definitely didn’t see that one coming,” Dennis said, “but every idea has to start somewhere so why not?”
News broke late last week of an innovative bid to host the 2030 Commonwealth Games across eleven regional cities, including Yarrawonga.
Named ‘The Greater Victoria’ bid, the concept was announced by Greater Shepparton City Council Mayor Dinny Adem along with a working group chaired by Swisse Wellness Managing Director Adem Karafili and a list of sporting and business identities including Melbourne billionaire philanthropist Heloise Pratt AM.
Mayor Adem said the bid was a “first of its kind vision for the ‘People’s Games’”.
“What we believe could form the blueprint for future major sporting events given the cost required and infrastructure needed to hold global competitions like the Commonwealth Games,” he said.
“Naturally this idea won’t even get off the ground without very significant support across all levels of government and the private sector.
“Parties of all political persuasions have been talking for years about the importance of delivering jobs and investment strategies for regional areas and this ambitious but very real proposal will deliver on many, many fronts and for many, many years. No-one does major events, particularly major sporting events, better than Victorians.”
The bid calls for the ten compulsory Commonwealth Games events to be held in regional centres including; Bendigo (aquatics), Shepparton (athletics, lawn bowls, squash), Ballarat (badminton, netball), Gippsland (boxing, weightlifting) and Geelong (hockey, rugby 7s).
The Commonwealth Games structure then allows the host city, or in this case region, to select up to seven optional events.
The proposal for The Greater Victoria bid includes the possibility of; basketball (Shepparton and Bendigo), road cycling(Warnambool/Port Campbell, Mount Buller) track cycling (Bendigo), diving (Bendigo), gymnastics (Geelong), rowing(Lake Nagambie), tennis(Wodonga), triathlon (Shepparton) and sailing earmarked for Lake Mulwala.
Yarrawonga Yacht Club Commodore Dennis Baker described the regional bid as innovative and said the prospect of hosting sailing events on Lake Mulwala was very exciting.
“It could absolutely be done. It’s not unusual for sailing and rowing competition to be held away from the central location of a major sporting event like the Olympic or Commonwealth games,” he said.
“At the China Olympic Games the sailing was held at a venue 150kms from the main stadium and in Sydney events were hosted away from Homebush – so it is certainly a possibility and it does make sense.”
Mr Baker said many of Australia’s top sailing athletes hailed from regional areas and the opportunity to host an international competition in a regional area would be a great boost for the sport.
“It would be an incredible boost for sailing as a sport and of course great for our club,” he said.
“We’ve put a lot of time and thought over the years into the future of the club and the sport locally and this kind of opportunity would do wonders for us, there’s no doubt about that.”
Hosting the event at the home of the Yarrawonga Yacht Club on Lake Mulwala would require some upgrades in terms of clubhouse facilities, amenities and car parking but in terms of the water itself, Mr Baker said there was no better place.
“When it comes to the on-water side of things we’ve got that covered,” he said.
“And Lake Mulwala lends itself to an ‘ampitheatre-type’ setting which would provide great viewing options for spectators.”
The economic flow-on benefits for Yarrawonga Mulwala tourism, accommodation and hospitality associated with hosting one event can only be imagined, but what about the possibility of several events?
Yarrawonga Mulwala Tourism Executive Officer said there were definite options for other Commonwealth Games events to be held locally – in particular the triathlon and the tennis.
“We’ve hosted Victorian championship triathlon events successfully for the past five years as part of the Yarrawonga Mulwala Multi-Sport Festival and in 2016 the event was a world championship qualifying race,” Mr Wright said.
“We’ve literally got the runs on the board when it comes to triathlon. And just imagine the swim in Lake Mulwala, the run and cycle legs around Lake Mulwala - what an incredible visual to broadcast to the rest of the world.
“I can’t think why you would want to have it anywhere else.”
And why not add tennis to the list of 2030 Commonwealth Games events to be held in Yarrawonga?
“We have some of the best tennis courts in the country – players travel here from far and wide and they rave over the courts,” Mr Wight said.
“We’ve hosted Country Week – the biggest regional tennis tournament in the world, we have the Country Festival of Tennis in November each year and we have the International Tennis Seniors event which attracts players from across the world.
“Tennis is definitely another event we can put our hand up for and if the opportunity arises we would be doing just that.”
With the list of event options growing, plenty of quality accommodation, entertainment venues and so much more to offer, Mr Wright said Yarrawonga Mulwala was ripe for inclusion in the Commonwealth Games bid.
Back to Mayor Adem who said the bid working group was “under no illusions there will be challenges for a Greater Victoria Commonwealth Games bid, including accommodation and security”.
“But we all understand that and we have to give it a go. Nothing happens by just sitting still and dreaming and no bid for any major sporting event has everything on a platter, but addressing these challenges and coming up with solutions and outcomes will naturally be one of the major focuses of the 2030 bid working group.”
The group has approximately 3000 days until they are required to formally lodge a bit for the 2030 Commonwealth Games.