Preparing a City to party

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How do you prepare a city for its biggest ever party

 

This was the question presented after the success of Glasgow 2014 as preparations commenced in earnest for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games. Whilst the main elements of the Games had been defined such as the location of venues, live sites and the athletes village, detailed planning to identify how the City would be presented at Games time had not occurred. The analogy was made that if you were to host a celebration at your house you would put a balloon on your mail box and tinsel around the house – this is the same with a city putting on a party but clearly at a far greater scale.

The process of preparing a city to host a major event like the Commonwealth Games and how the city is presented is a critical element of that. The communication of the concept is fundamental so the concept of “City Presentation” was coined.

Four years out from the Opening Ceremony two key pillars of work were initiated which would set the framework for the how the City was presented at Games time. These were the GC2018 Public Domain Implementation Plan and the GC2018 City Presentation Masterplan. When coupled together they provided a four year program to ensure that the infrastructure would be in place; branding elements resolved and temporary overlay fabricated and installed in time.

The GC2018 Public Domain Implementation Plan was a prioritised capital works program to support pedestrian movement and City Presentation ambitions at Games times. It included mall upgrades, smart pole installation, signature tree planting, pedestrian movement upgrades and permanent wayfinding improvements and was completed in early 2018.

To build an understanding of how the city could be presented at Games time a masterplanning process was initiated. An interactive design process was implemented which included key stakeholders from different fields including tourism, marketing, festival programming, economic development and city operations. This was a critical body of work which shaped the City Presentation ambition and expressed this through a lens of three typologies: city gateways, transport route networks (high speed environment) and destination (environment experienced at walking pace). This provided a framework for investment supported by a series of components that could be delivered as part of the program.

The capital works identified in the Public Domain Improvement Plan was then implemented over the next three years in preparation. The City Presentation program continued to be refined dependant on budget. The development of a budget for a program such as this is chicken and egg in that more funding provides more opportunity however this has to be balanced with what is considered satisfactory from the community and political perspective. The components that were delivered included public art installations, lighting installations, temporary wayfinding, nearly 1000 banners and other  look and feel elements.

An important consideration of the City Presentation project was the opportunity to ensure legacy opportunities were realised. One spin-off legacy occurred in the form of a banner booking system which was inspired by the success of the Sydney 2000 Olympics and their implementation of a similar program.

The aptly named Banner Booking System enables the city to have increased control over the types of banners that go on city pole assets and in the future, Energex and State Government owned poles. This provides dual benefits in that it enables the city to have increased control over banner content and also generates a revenue stream which can be used for further pole asset investment or similar community benefit. Sponsorship opportunity represents the next body of work to be advanced to continue to realise the potential.

It is important to note that preparations to present a city for a major event or celebration ideally begin years in advance. The rationale for this is that dependant on the maturity or the size of the city, infrastructure may not meet City Presentation ambitions.