It was the year of Matilda – the giant winking marsupial. It was the year swimmer Tracey Wickham was already a household name and marathon runner Rob de Castella and weightlifter Dean Lukin soon became the names on everyone’s lips.
It was the year boxing was still on display at Festival Hall. It was the year where Raelene Boyle stopped the nation by winning gold in the 400m. It was her swansong and Australians held a collective breath for the whole of that race, until her victory was confirmed.
I am definitely NOT an athlete! I like to participate in non- competitive sports like yoga, walking and gym sessions, although I must admit I was quite the vigaro player back in the day. ( Does anyone even know what vigaro is anymore??)
My Dad, however, devoted much of his life to the sport of boxing – as a competitor and coach. One of the highlights of his career was coaching the Australian Team at the Commonwealth Games in his hometown of Brisbane in 1982.
So I thought I’d share my memories of our family day out visiting the Commonwealth Games Village at Griffith University and Mount Gravatt College of Advanced Education. The memories may be a little hazy but it was just one of those days you never forget. Ever!
Mum didn’t and still doesn’t drive, so our very proud Granddad piled myself, my two sisters and Mum into the car for the trek to ….. the other side of the river!
We were from Redcliffe so even going into town was an adventure. Who knew what would happen when you crossed the Brisbane River. It was a complete mystery and was like trekking to a foreign land.
The village was beautiful, so neat and clean and the people walking around were at the peak of their physical condition. Most were young, except for a few of the coaches we met.
They radiated good health and vigour and there was a cacophony of languages swirling around us making us feel, even more, as though we were in an exotic land.
There were people of every different shape, size and colouring from some countries we had never even heard of. I think this was a defining moment for me in seeing the similarities and differences in people.
Everyone had a place and every body type on earth was made to do special and different things; from the wiry runners to the muscular gymnasts to the sleek broad shouldered swimmers and the compact weightlifters with bulging muscles.
Dad first showed us around his living quarters. Our eyes were wide as he loaded us up with milo and energy bars which were all FREE and in endless supply everywhere. His blue, yellow, green and cream uniform was hanging neatly ready to don again for the closing ceremony (It now resides in the Redcliffe Museum).
Everything was so tidy. I’d expected messy rooms with so many people living in close quarters , but at least in Dad’s section, there was a certain air of respect and awe in their surroundings. Either that or an army of cleaners had descended before our arrival.
Dad wasn’t a tall man but he seemed to grow to 10 feet tall as he showed us around. He was proud to be a part of something special and he was proud to be showing off his daughters to anyone who came within ‘ Coo- eeee’.
Walking past the manicured lawn we saw athletes taking in the sunshine and was that?…yes it was– the handsome cyclist Kenrick Tucker. He was muscle on muscle and you could see from the size of his legs that he was definitely a cyclist and a gold medal winning cyclist at that!
The shock for us was seeing him cuddle up to swimming sensation Tracey Wickham and not long after this sighting the papers did confirm that ‘yes’ they were an item.
Music blaring from some loudspeakers turned our attention to the Village’s centre stage so we headed over to see what was happening. There in all their glory were the gold medal winning “Mean Machine” who were playing air guitar and lip syncing to a heavy metal song.
They’d finished their races and were now enjoying the fruits of victory and letting their hair down. Greg Fasala was, of course, showing off as the lead singer in the band.
The dining hall was another revelation. Dad showed us every type of food imaginable and said the athletes could eat whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. Remember these were the days of meat and three veg , when Spaghetti Bolognese was about the most exotic food we ate.
Later in the day we came back and watched the Queen eating her lunch and chatting with athletes and dignitaries. We were so close peeking through the windows!
I’m sure security would move us on today, but this was a different time and it was only many years later that I realised what a special moment it had been.
The Queen was wearing a flowery hat and a summer dress. I think it was in tones of blue and yellow, but that may be wrong as I was so wrought with excitement at being so close, my usual eye for fashion may have deserted me.
I remember Mum telling us that the Queen would signal with her handbag when she was done and ready to go and sure enough she did. I’m sure my deep love of handbags stems from that day.
We met boxers from Ireland, runners from Africa and cyclists from Canada. We had never travelled so it brought the prospect of world travel right to our doorstep and opened the door to the great big world beyond the borders of Brisbane.
Now that I had crossed the river I could go anywhere and do anything and funnily enough I have.
As the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games approach, I find myself surrounded my happy memories, but also sad ones.
Happy to have experienced a glimpse into such a successful and heart warming event.
The 1982 Commonwealth Games really changed Brisbane and showed off the friendliness and quintessential Australian spirit of our proud sporting nation. Sad because my Dad is not here anymore to witness the excitement these games are generating and the special sporting moments that are surely to come.
I can only imagine the frisson of fear and exhilaration building for the athletes who have worked so hard, the nerves and double checking going on behind the scenes for organisers and the prepping of the army of volunteers.
But it’s the little things that will stay with us in years to come- the athlete who helps another when he or she fall, the lasting friendships made and the funny things that will happen along the way, as well as the names of new champions who will become household names like Tracey Wickham and Dean Lukin in the past.
Whose names will grace our history books? How will this event change the state and the Gold Coast forever more? It may be you in the future telling stories like these to your children.
Are you looking forward to the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games? What events are you most looking forward to watching?