Griffith Business School researcher leaders came together to share insights and findings around the planning, communications and legacy impacts associated with the Commonwealth Games GC2018, at the Commonwealth Games Research Symposium on October 24.


Professor Graham Cuskelly

In opening the event, Professor Graham Cuskelly said, “The Commonwealth Games feels like such a long time ago, but a lot of this research has continued on from the Commonwealth Games because some of it’s looking at more legacy related issues.”

“This is a joint venture between our Griffith Institute for Tourism and the Department of Tourism, Sport and Hotel Management and other colleagues across the Griffith Business School. I really appreciate you all being here, welcome and thanks for being with us.”


“It’s hoped that this research will assist future host cites of mega-sporting events to make better informed decisions based on the outcomes of multiple Griffith studies on the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games – and practitioners in government, industry and small businesses as key stakeholders of the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games may be the first beneficiaries.”


Associate_Professor_Leonie Lockstone-Binney

Associate Professor Leonie Lockstone-Binney

Associate Professor Leonie Lockstone-Binney followed as moderator and said, “We have four speakers talking on a diverse range of topics, all very important looking at the impact and legacies of the Commonwealth Games.”

“Our first speaker is Dr Alana Thomson speaking on behalf of her research team, Emeritus Professor Kristine Toohey and Dr Millicent Kennelly, about measuring social legacies of large-scale sporting events using the Commonwealth Games as a case study.”

Project: ‘Measuring social legacies of large-scale sport events: A Delphi study’
Research Team: Dr Alana Thomson, Dr Millicent Kennelly and Emeritus Professor Kristine Toohey


Dr Alana Thomson

Dr Alana Thomson explained, “We know that with bids for events there are lots of promises made around the social legacies, how great they are they are going to be for the community, that there will be volunteering communities, and everyone is going to be more active off the back of an event.”

“But what we see around the world is there is really a lack of evidence that shows that happens. I guess what I would say is that myself and my team are passionate that these things can happen, but we need to better understand the processes to maximise those outcomes.”

“So the purpose of a Delphi study is to arrive at a consensus and there are certain parameters, coming to consensus doesn’t mean that everybody agrees, but what the literature tells us if we get a consensus of 70% of people in agreeance, then you can say that is a consensus point.”

“So what we were looking at here was to identify a list of social legacies that might be included in a social legacy footprint. And I guess to have some kind of agreement and prioritisation around what we might expect.”

“The first part of this was that, we did do a systematic quantitative review of the literature to acknowledge that there has been lots of research done in this space before – how can we build a basis off that?”

“So we had three rounds of Delphi, that went out in 2018 and we were able to draw on a lot of our contacts from Commonwealth Games. Also between the connections of Professor Toohey, Dr Kennelly and myself, we actually went out to an international group,” said Dr Thomson.

“For the panel, we identified 100 experts, and these were academics, practitioners and media people as well that were important cause they are often the ones that collect and shape the perceptions around these things.”


Dr Alana Thomson

By the end of the study, 29 Social Legacy Types were identified by the panel of experts in the research to be able to inform the development of a measurement tool to map the social legacy footprint of such events.

“But I guess now what we have is some kind of empirical basis, because up until now, there has been a lot of anecdotes in the social legacy space and not in terms of looking at such a comprehensive set of social legacy types.”

The top five Social Legacy Types after the third round was; 1. Improving physical infrastructure, 2. Improving the provision for sport participation, 3. Promoting economic development, 4. Building a reputation for event hosting, 5. Improving knowledge and skills for event hosting.

“The first and the third were new ones that came through when we asked people what they thought. And the interesting thing for us was they had the intersection between, physical infrastructure for social outcomes and also promoting economic development for social outcomes,” said Dr Thomson.

“That was a huge takeaway for us, because the literature doesn’t do a whole lot of looking at the relationship between those physical and social outcomes. They are almost treated like they are opposite ends of the spectrum – that we have tangible and intangible outcomes and we don’t always get the intersection between them.”

“The second point (SLT) – improving the provision of sport participation, there is so much research now that shows us increases in sports participation isn’t happening as a result of hosting mega-sport events. But what it is showing is that it is coming second out of those 29 and it’s considered on the leader-board.”

“In terms of moving forward we have got an academic paper on our preliminary review work for this project currently under review, we also won earlier this year, led by Dr Kennelly, an IOC Advanced Researcher Grant, that looks at testing our list of social legacies in three case studies.”

“We also have another project that is about to kick-off, looking at those specific legacy outcomes from the Gold Coast and also looking forward what can we learn to inform our SEQ Olympic bid.”

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Project: ‘Transforming communities through event legacies: Residential property development as a driver for new housing choice on the Gold Coast’
Research Team: Associate Professor Sacha Reid and Dr Melissa Pocock


Dr Melissa Pocock

Dr Melissa Pocock examined one of the main event legacies following the Commonwealth Games, the Gold Coast Parklands project with Associate Professor Sacha Reid, which represents one of Australia’s first large-scale Build-to-Rent projects.

The Commonwealth Games Athletes Village (CGAV) represented the largest individual project that the Queensland government had to complete for the games. Following the games, the developer (Grocon) transformed the project into a mixed-use residential community for the sole purpose of Build-to-Rent under management of UBS.

“The take that we took on the Commonwealth Games was a little bit different to what the other groups who were doing research took, or the approach that they adopted,” said Dr Pocock.

“Essentially we looked at the Commonwealth Games as a construction project, and we were thinking along the lines of, construction of significant event infrastructure, such as the Athletes village, has the potential to shape pricing trends for higher density housing for quite a significant period post-games.”

“So as populations in cities such as the Gold Coast grow, there is infrastructure pressure on those cities. When translated to housing for those growing populations, we must ask where do you fit all the new people?”

“So our research sought to examine how governments utilise legislation and policy influence to facilitate property developments and achieve those event legacies. In the context of the Athletes Village, it contributed over 2,100 new housing products into the market.”

“Now in a market as small as the Gold Coast from a property development perspective, those 2,100 units (in the Athletes Village) have the potential to have a significant impact on pricing. That was something we were concerned about too; ensuring there was no negative impacts on pricing.”


Dr Melissa Pocock

“So we started with a critical review of legislation and the planning environments that facilitated the Public and Private Partnership which resulted in the construction of the Athletes Village and then we undertook a qualitative study interviewing key experts and stakeholders,” said Dr Pocock.

“We were looking for categorisations essentially of how the government organisations went about achieving those legacies. Whether they were planned, or were they were a happy coincidence in the context of residential development?”

“This project came about through dedication of the land as the Parklands Priority Development Area. That dedication allowed the project site to be placed under purview of the Minister for Economic Development Queensland.”

“What the results showed were three themes; 1. Event legacies and how the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games was the catalyst for further developments of the Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct. 2. The impact of the Games on housing and real estate values, 3. And the delivery of the Athletes Village through a public-private partnership.”

“Now this was something that was quite unique, because public-private partnerships (PPPs) are rarely used to provide for residential construction. Typically you see PPPs for the construction of tunnels, bridges or highways, those sorts of things.”

“The CGAV was the first delivery of a build-to-rent residential project that has resulted in a new sector for property investment opportunities in Australia, and one of the most significant in South-East Queensland that was achieved without the displacement of a single resident,” said Dr Pocock.

“It utilised the Economic Development Act, legislation that facilitates the priority treatment of key development areas, which essentially moves the planning aspects of a particular site away from the local government to the State government.”

“The levels of government worked incredibly well together and with the private sector under these legislative umbrellas in order to achieve those legacies, and these legislative umbrellas allowed for the achievement of a very detailed planning process where the results from a construction and infrastructure perspective were absolutely measurable.”

“And it is worthwhile noting that the site itself is a world leader in sustainability according to the Green Building Council, it is a six-green-star community. That is a key outcome to have been able to be achieved on such a large scale project.”
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Project: ‘A social media analysis of the gendered representations of female and male athletes in the 2018 Commonwealth Games’
Research Team: Dr Elaine Yang, Ms Michelle Hayes, Ms Emily Chen, Dr Caroline Riot, Dr Catheryn Khoo-Lattimore


Dr Elaine Yang

In Dr Elaine Yang’s opening she explained, “We have seen an increasing attention about gender equality in sport with growing discussions on gender pay-gap, women’s sport participation rate and recognition of female athletes.”

“Despite all these initiatives, the contemporary sport culture remains male-dominated, as evidenced by two aspects. The first one is girl’s participation in sport. Research shows that the drop-out rate for girls aged 14 is two times higher compared to boys and the drop-out age is getting lower.”

“The second aspect is related to how female athletes are represented in the media. Traditional media, such as TV and newspapers has constraints related to space and prime time. And because of that the media must make choices about who and what they feature. And in many cases, they are featuring more male events.”

“But this is improved during mega-sporting events such as Olympics and Commonwealth Games, the coverage for women actually increases because of the medal opportunity – when someone wins a medal the media feature it.”

“With the emergence of social media, we wonder if the coverage and representation of female athletes have improved as there is no limitation on the number of posts and hence, remove the constraints faced by traditional media.”

“We collected more than 700,000 Tweets during the games period and after removing non-qualifying tweets, we analysed 133,000 posts that mentioned either female and male athletes’ names,” said Dr Yang.


Ms Emily Chen

Big data analyst, Ms Emily Chen explained the procedures to extract the datasets and the analyses performed.

“We collected about 1900 female and 2,500 male athlete names from the event. The 700,000 tweets were screened using MySQL to identify tweets that mentioned athlete names.”

Dr Yang explained, “The initial results from machine-generated Sentiment Analysis and Word Frequency Analysis indicated no gender differences. So we asked, have things really changed? Have the representations of female athletes been improved?”

“We looked through the literature and identified a list of words that have been used to portray female athletes and flagged as problematic. We also randomly selected and coded on 200 tweets to identify any other words that may carry a gender connotation.”

“We perform an analysis based on 44 words and identified gender differences but on a marginal scale. Most of the tweets reported on the facts and games’ outcomes with a gender-neutral narrative.”

“However, we also found that female athletes were 2.8 times more likely to be referred to as girls, rather than male athletes as boys.”


Dr Elaine Yang

“Words such as beautiful and sexy are about 2 times more likely to appear on tweets mentioning female athletes. Female athletes are 2.7 times more likely to be referred to as mother compare to males as father, and family was mentioned more frequently in female Tweets.”

“Male athletes on the other hand are more likely to be described as young, talented heroes. Whereas women are often described as hard-working and 5 times more likely to be described as dedicated,” said Dr Yang.

“This finding is important because it shows that seemingly neutral words such as talent, hard work and dedication could have a gender connotation in the sport context. It predisposes the notion that men are natural athletes while women are not.”

Dr Elaine Yang concluded, “Recommendations are provided to stakeholders to advance a more inclusive sport culture through strategic use of social media. By changing the representation of athletes on social media, it may have more meaningful social impacts than merely increasing women’s participation rates at mega-sporting events.”

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Project: ‘Business and the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games: Expectations, outcomes and the future’
Research Team: Professor Andrew O’Neil, Dr Joan Carlini

Professor Andrew O’Neil, Dr Joan Carlini

Professor Andrew O’Neil explained, “I will be talking about the background and method and our impact strategy around this project that segued off a previous project that we did in 2017 in the lead up to the Commonwealth Games.”

“So this project is essentially part two and we are possibly thinking about part three that may seek to map to Birmingham Commonwealth Games in 2022.”

“As a part of the impact strategy pathway, we had an op-ed which essentially captured the findings of this report and mapped that onto the Queensland Government’s current scoping strategy around potentially holding the Olympic games in Queensland in 2032.”

“That (article) ran in the Courier Mail and we are presently working on a journal paper submitting to an A-level journal, so this is a research project but it has impact pathways attached to it.”

“We had about 150 respondents to the questionnaire and around about 40 interviews for the project, so it was not an insignificant sample size on which to base the findings.”

“So the majority of survey respondents were business owners that operated their businesses for more than 10 years, they had between 1-19 employees. They had an annual turnover of greater than $200,000, they were generally located on the Central Gold Coast, although we did have some North and South. And most were in retail, accommodation and hospitality sectors,” said Professor O’Neil.

Professor Andrew O’Neil, Dr Joan Carlini

Dr Joan Carlini followed to discuss the results, “I think the most significant thing that I’m sharing with you is when businesses were asked how they were impacted by the games, half of all respondents reported that their businesses were impacted very negatively, 23% some-what negatively, 16% interestingly felt no impact, with 10% positive.”

“So we found that the main factors identified for the negative impact on businesses was customer numbers at 57% and reduced sales volume. Other significant factors that affected business were almost equal and included vehicular and pedestrian access and changes to customer behaviour.”

“It was really interesting that 40% of respondents said that their personal wellbeing had suffered. A combination of negative business impacts as well as long work hours for example due to overnight deliveries has most likely resulted in this adverse effect.”

Professor Andrew O’Neil, Dr Joan Carlini

“Surprisingly most businesses reported that the Commonwealth Games had no impact on the work atmosphere at 40%. However, during an interview one retail business commented that improved work environment was due to athletes using the facilities as well and associating with normal customers.”

“From the data we did some further analysis, so what we found was again surprising, bits I have seen the opposite in the literature. Those business located close to a games venue were more likely to be negatively impacted.”

“For business information, many of the respondents commented that the information they received from GetSet and the games was inaccurate. As you can see this really imposed a problem because the most inaccurate information was actually the most used information,” said Dr Carlini.

In closing Professor O’Neil said, “So at the end of the day and I think this was captured fairly well in the op-ed that was run, we came up with three kinds of core recommendations.”

“One of the things that struck us certainly in a lot of the data that came back, but also sort of anecdotally in a lot of the conversations with stakeholders was that the engagement with business wasn’t authentic – a lot of it was a tick and flick exercise that tended to be focussed on the top end of town.”

“SME’s in particular weren’t seriously engaged – they were kind of given information by GetSet Games, they weren’t seriously engaged by GOLDDOC in particular. And there was no serious consultative process that took into account the concerns and aspirations of SMEs.”

“One of our key recommendations was certainly for events of this nature in the future – business to the SMEs need to be brought into the process in a much more integrated and authentic way – how you do that, is something that clearly governments (State and Local) need to give a lot more thought to.”

“Business themselves need to be proactive and accessing rigorous information in their research with universities for example, and in terms of being able to undertake strategic planning well ahead of events.”

“And finally businesses need to be active in distributing information with peer competitors and accessing a variety of information networks,” said Professor O’Neil.
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Griffith Symposium Speaker Panel

For more information on the Commonwealth Games Research Symposium please submit a request to the Department of Tourism Sport and Hotel Management through Ms Lucy Frank ([email protected]) and look out for future events with the department.

Feature image: Research Symposium Speaker Panel, Griffith Gold Coast Campus, October 24, 2019

Related Reading:

GIFT Blog:
‘The Commonwealth Games Research Symposium was a Success’

GIFT Blog:
‘Commonwealth Games Research Symposium – Event Notice’