It’s often said it’s the people that make the place — well, that certainly rings true of the Gold Coast.
Sure, the endless stretch of golden beaches broken up by forested headlands and blue-water estuaries certainly help, but you also couldn’t wish to meet finer folk.
Take Greg, one of 15,000 volunteers working at the fittingly often referred to “Friendly Games”.
A retired Sydneysider, who now calls the Gold Coast home, Greg has been busy ferrying about dignitaries attending the event in one of countless official GC2018 cars.
But on a quiet afternoon, a few days before the opening ceremony, he kindly offered to chauffeur someone a little less important — namely, yours truly.
It just didn’t go quite as smooth as either of us had of hoped.
Although he typed in the address of my destination — the well-known Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre — into his swanky new GPS system, Greg still somehow got lost.
This, despite being a self-proclaimed master yachtsman, who once spent a night dragging anchor after missing a mooring in treacherous Caribbean seas on a sailing trip with his wife.
We’re not sure exactly what beaten path we ended up on but I could tell one thing for certain: it wasn’t the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre.
The GPS seemed little help to Greg, who become increasingly hostile towards the female voice as she politely told him where to turn.
“No!!!” was Greg’s final word before pulling over to the side of the road and reverting to old-school motoring methods by thumbing through a street map.
I think we all know who took the blame for that missed mooring.
• Another “good bloke” I’ve crossed paths with at these Games is Dave the coach driver. Aren’t all coach drivers called Dave?
Dave is a proud Aussie, and even prouder of his family’s criminal heritage. Between 1788 and 1868, about 162,000 convicts were transported by the British Government to various penal colonies in Australia. And Dave knows exactly what led to his ancestors getting shipped to Botany Bay. Apparently his great, great, great (I lost count of the greats) grandfather “knocked off” a fruit and veg store in Glasgow; his great, great, great … grandmother was a maid who pilfered cloth from a stall at Old Spitalfields Market in London’s East End.
They say opposites attract, but that wasn’t the case for this love-struck pair whose crimes brought them together, the catalyst to their romance.
Dave relished retelling this heart-warming story. He also loved referring to me as “mate”. Lots of times. Before departing his coach, a tear in my eye, Dave leant over and patted me on my knee. “These Games don’t happen without the likes of you, mate” he smiled. “I’m proud of you coming all the way here, mate”.
If only my colleagues stuck in the office felt the same …
• Not long after Flora Duffy seized gold in spectacular fashion in the women’s triathlon, Henri Schoeman clinched South Africa’s first medal of the Games by winning the men’s event.
Like Duffy, Schoeman, at the age of 26, is already a superstar of the sport. And like Duffy he apparently remains humble and down to earth, despite his otherworldly ability to swim, cycle and run really, really fast.
While sitting on my media coach, waiting to depart Southport beachfront (Dave sadly wasn’t my driver on this occasion), Schoeman, still sporting his country’s green and gold garb, was spotted cycling alone back to the Athletes’ Village.
I can’t say for sure whether he was still wearing his gold medal around his neck. I like to think so, though.
• Regardless of whether they achieved their goals or had their dreams go up in smoke, Bermuda’s athletes couldn’t have been more approachable and communicative with the media.
Sure, it’s far more pleasurable to share your thoughts with the press after a gold medal-winning performance, but not every Bermudian athlete here has hit the heady heights of Flora Duffy.
Tre Houston battled through injuries and upheaval to reach the Gold Coast and was therefore unable to do himself justice in the 200 metres; Tyrone Smith failed to make the cut in the long jump final, fouling two of his three attempts; while Micah Franklin was frustrated to lose his Classic Plate squash final in straight sets.
Despite their disappointments each athlete spoke candidly about their displays, even while fighting back tears in the case of Houston and Franklin.
All of the athletes are representing their country at the highest level and knew they had a responsibility to tell their story, good, bad or indifferent.
• Who says the Commonwealth Games are irrelevant?
They certainly seem relevant to the masses of Australians who have turned out in their droves to cheer on the medal table leaders.
They certainly seem relevant to the youngsters, with their impossibly wide grins, proudly wearing their “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!” shirts.
They certainly seem relevant to the 6,000 athletes from 71 nations leaving it all out there in their respective events.
And they certainly seem relevant to a patriotic farmer near Carrara Stadium who painted “Go Aus!” on the cows in her paddock.
While the Commonwealth itself is no longer relevant — an echo of colonialism which began as the British Empire Games in 1930 — the multi-sport competition seems as popular as ever.
Kudos to the organisers for embracing true gender equality, with an equal number of medal events for men and women for the first time in Games history. That certainly seems relevant to me.
• Love is in their air at these Games. At least that’s what they’re calling it.
Katura Horton-Perinchief, Bermuda’s chef de mission, was among numerous inhabitants of the Athletes’ Village to be “outed” for having a Tinder profile by news.com.au — the Australian entertainment website.
It’s hard to imagine Horton-Perinchief has had a moment to even check the wildly popular dating app, let alone swipe right.
The Olympic diver has been a major visual and vocal presence at every event featuring a Bermudian, armed with her iPhone camera, Bermuda flag and cries of “Let’s go Bermuda!”
Her words of encouragement have no doubt been gratefully received by the island’s eight-member team.
In fairness to Horton-Perinchief, once the app is on your phone it will automatically update your location. Erm, so I’ve been told.
Those pesky reporters at news.com.au also published a photograph from Horton-Perinchief’s Instagram of her frolicking on a giant pink swan in the athletes’ pool before the Games.
Oh, the perils of social media.