In a regional bid for the Commonwealth Games, Greater Shepparton is bringing the ‘People’s Games’ to the people…
If we really are to become a ‘State of Cities’, regional Victoria must play a part. For too long, regional areas have sat on our laurels and gratefully accepted budget-crumbs to fix our road, rail and drainage problems. Sadly, there is nothing sexy about roads, rail and drainage. For example, it’s rare for politicians to turn up at the ‘launch’ of a footpath or offer photo opportunities beside a new culvert.
Therein lies the magnificent strategy behind our bid – infrastructure! Regional Victoria is turning things on it’s head by offering a great deal to the Government, instead of the other way around. This is not a request for boring old piecemeal infrastructure. This is a significant package that offers politicians an opportunity to hang their hat on the Commonwealth Games.
Shepparton is already positioned as the regional sporting capital of Victoria. Much required sporting infrastructure is already in place. Shepparton has a quality athletics track, an AFL standard oval, a national BMX track and already host international events such as bowls and beach volleyball. Shepparton also host the Ironman Triathlon on the banks of the Goulburn and picturesque Victoria park Lake.
We have until 2030 to deliver what we need. This allows time to upgrade sports stadiums, develop our Sporting Hall of Fame and build the passenger rail system from Melbourne airport, which could increase Shepparton’s rail services to 8 per day. It also strengthens our case for a bullet train. Ultimately, we will need long term government vision and bipartisan support to make this a reality, but it will drive regional investment of $1b and shake off the idea that State government is Metrocentric.
Look to Europe and we see good reason to embrace this idea. For instance, the Tour de France showcases regional areas to draw and spread economic benefit. As athletics champion John Steffenson points out, athletes just want to win and they will travel to Mars if it means getting ahead.
Tourism benefits will stretch across all of regional Victoria, not just Shepparton. Professional sports people will travel back and forth from 11 different regional areas. Each region will connect individually with different sports and offer up role models to improve local fitness and inspiration. People will travel in advance for preliminary race assessments, as well as after the event for seminars, or when friends and family come to visit.
Perhaps the take home point is an event like the Commonwealth Games will put us front and centre in an international spotlight. If we achieve nothing else, this bid will raise the bar and offer hope for all our constituents that we are gaining momentum on a world stage.