Michael Pavitt ©ITG

For many Commonwealth Games Associations, the next five days will present a first glimpse of Gold Coast 2018.

While descriptions, photos and videos will have whetted the appetite over recent months and years, the opportunity to stand in the Games venues will offer a greater insight into what they can expect when competition gets underway next year.

In many ways, this week's Chef de Mission seminar could be viewed as the beginning of the home straight for Gold Coast 2018's preparations.

October 4 officially marked the six months to go mark until the Games, which were awarded to the Australian coastal city back in November 2011. Largely, organisers have enjoyed fairly serene progress since Gold Coast saw off the challenge of Sri Lankan city Hambantota nearly six years ago. A common saying from Gold Coast 2018 chairman Peter Beattie over recent months has been that the Games are "on time and on budget".

The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) will undoubtedly be relieved that Gold Coast 2018 appears to be on the right track, which has enabled them to focus their efforts on the search for a replacement host for the 2022 Games.

It is true that Gold Coast 2018 have not needed to build a vast number of venues, but there has never been any doubt that the permanent construction projects would be ready in time.

The Anna Meares Velodrome, one of two venues based in Brisbane, was completed in November 2016. The facility has already been put to use, hosting the Australian National Track Cycling Championships in March, and it will do so again next year.

Both the Carrara Sports and Leisure Centre, located next to the main stadium, and the Coomera Indoor Sports Centre, were on the verge of completion when the one-year celebrations were held earlier this year. Following the final licks of paint drying, the latter officially opened to the public in August, with the 7,500 seater venue now preparing to welcome the Commonwealth's best gymnasts and netball players. 

Similarly, the multi-purpose facility in Carrara is poised to host badminton, powerlifting, weightlifting and wrestling.

The Coomera Sports Centre is one of the permanent venues to have been constructed in advance of the Games ©Getty Images
The Coomera Sports Centre is one of the permanent venues to have been constructed in advance of the Games ©Getty Images

The final permanent venue to be completed, the redeveloped Gold Coast Hockey Centre, was officially unveiled in July. The 5,000 capacity facility boasts two new all-weather synthetic pitches, along with a grass pitch and clubhouse.

In this sense, Gold Coast have taken a novel departure from hosts of other major sporting events in recent times. Other hosts have succeeded in providing drama with the late finishes of their venues, leading to nerves before the competition that follows. Thankfully, it would seem that the only drama concerning the venues here will be on the field of play.

It is not just the permanent competition venues which have progressed swimmingly, with organisers last week receiving the completed Parklands Development project. The site will act as the Athletes' Village during next year's Games, housing 6,600 athletes and officials. It will comprise of 1,170 apartments and 82 townhouses, with the focal point an abstract looking water feature.

For those who follow athletes on social networking sites, you are likely to experience a deluge of photos featuring this feature in April. It appears to have been constructed with Instagram in mind.

While it is easy to laud the progress made by organisers in this respect, there certainly is no time to become complacent as there is still work to be done. The Village, colourful though it is, still needs to be kitted out prior to the Games.

Construction of the Athletes' Village has been completed, but temporary work still needs to be concluded ©Gold Coast 2018
Construction of the Athletes' Village has been completed, but temporary work still needs to be concluded ©Gold Coast 2018

Mark Peters, Gold Coast 2018's chief executive, stressed this point when the handover from the Queensland Government to the organisers took place.

"There are more than 300 temporary structures yet to be built on site to house key facilities including the fully equipped gymnasium and the polyclinic which is essentially a small hospital within the Village to service the medical needs of the residents," he said.

"There are also a number of retail outlets opening up during Games time with a general store, tourism information centre, hair salon, Optus phone store and several other exciting stores to bump in.

"By the time we see 160,000 pieces of furniture and equipment, with 13,000 chairs and 11,900 tables and 4,000 bean bags moved in, we will start to look like a welcoming home away from home for our friends from around the Commonwealth."

The same can also be said for venues, which still need fine-tuning before welcoming athletes to the Games for competition between April 4 and 15. This will include completing the competition overlays, which will provide the "look" of the Games when they are beamed worldwide. Ultimately, this should not be too great a task, but a number of temporary changes still do need to take place.

Work began at the Carrara Stadium in July, with the venue for athletics and Ceremonies undergoing several key changes. This is primarily the addition of temporary seating, which will take the capacity from 25,000 to 40,000, and the installation of a temporary track. Incorporating the track into an Australian Football League stadium is not a straightforward task, as was made clear by an official at the Gold Coast Suns home ground earlier this year.

Cockram Construction will be tasked with completing the work in time for the Australian Athletics Championships in February. The company, who were named the official construction and civil works supplier for the Games in April, have already begun groundwork on a warm-up facility.

Constructing a temporary stand to take the capacity at the open-air Optus Aquatic Centre to 10,000 for swimming and 2,500 for diving will also need to be completed, along with the development of the beach volleyball venue at Coolangatta, a sport preparing for its Commonwealth Games debut. Gold Coast 2018 will hope to avoid any hiccups in the coming months regarding these sites.

The installation of an athletics track and temporary seating at the Carrara Stadium is due to finish in February ©Getty Images
The installation of an athletics track and temporary seating at the Carrara Stadium is due to finish in February ©Getty Images

Another key cog in the Gold Coast 2018 machine will be transport. Although the topic does not carry the same attractiveness as a shiny new venue, it will be a major factor in whether the Games run successfully or not. 

It was flagged as the clear challenge for organisers when the CGF Coordination Commission visited the city last December, with the final press conference largely dedicated to local journalists asking question after question on the topic. It could well be that transport will be the issue which keeps Gold Coast 2018 officials awake at night as the Games edges nearer.

In fairness, it was also considered a challenge that Glasgow needed to overcome when they hosted the Games four years ago. The primary difference is that while Glasgow's venues were spread in all directions from the city centre, Gold Coast's facilities are dotted down the coastline. Essentially, people will either be attempting to travel up or down the coast during the Games, making traffic a potential difficulty.

Certainly, Gold Coast has been built on the use of cars, which is something the city are keen to alter in the coming years. Given the vast number of waterways - it has been claimed Gold Coast has a bigger system than Venice - a subway network is impossible unless there are remarkable developments afoot in the engineering community.

While there is a good tram system in operation, transport is likely to depend on the roads. Gold Coast 2018 have sought to meet the challenge head on, with draft transport plans announced last year before the official operations plan was made public in June.

Three main areas of interest were spectator access to venues, the reliability of the key M1 motorway and changes to local area road networks during the Games. Athletes and team officials will have access to dedicated bus and coach services, while there will be no spectator parking at events.

Organisers have expressed their hope that fans will instead use public transport to attend competitions at the Games, with all ticket holders and accredited officials benefiting from free transport on the day of their event. Extra trains, buses and light rail services are being scheduled, along with 13 temporary park and ride facilities.

Gold Coast 2018 are steering the public towards public transport at the Games to avoid traffic ©Getty Images
Gold Coast 2018 are steering the public towards public transport at the Games to avoid traffic ©Getty Images

Gold Coast 2018 will also be reliant on local and Queensland Government projects running on time and proving effective. The City of Gold Coast announced a series of road improvements in June, with the majority expected to be completed by the close of the year. 

It is hoped the upgrades will reduce traffic congestion as the city prepares to welcome a huge number of athletes, officials, volunteers, media and spectators. Last week, Queensland's Deputy Premier and Minister for Transport Jackie Trad claimed upgrades to the rail services were on track. Having travelled from Brisbane Airport to Gold Coast via train yesterday, I can certainly add that the process seemed relatively straightforward.

It is possible that the Queensland Government could actually form one of the major challenges for organisers in the final sixth months of preparations. A state election is currently slated to be held on May 5 next year. Clearly, this would result in the usual electioneering taking place alongside the Games. There is perhaps be a danger that any hiccup endured by organisers will be magnified by politicians opting to use the Games as a political football.

There has been speculation in the local press in recent weeks that an earlier election date could be announced by Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. Whether that would suit Gold Coast 2018 or not is anyone's guess. CGF President Louise Martin certainly tried to preempt politics potentially affecting the Games last December by stating at the Coordination Commission that politicians should not use the Games for their own gains. She urged the state politicians to "leave the point scoring to the athletes". Whether they will do that remains to be seen in the coming months.

Navigating a state election is something largely out of Gold Coast 2018's hands, but promotion and ticket sales for the Games is something they will be responsible for.

The latter was officially launched in April, with a total of 1.2 million ticket requests since made for 275 events in 18 sports. This has included 200,000 of the 250,000 tickets currently on offer for athletics, although another 50,000 could become available when the temporary stand is completed. Just over 200,000 seats currently remain available in 10 sports, mostly for preliminary sessions.

The figures suggest the Games are on course to be well attended, with a focus by organisers of ensuring family attendance. This was something which was stressed when the ticketing process was unveiled.

State elections are due to be held on May 5, but could take place earlier ©Getty Images
State elections are due to be held on May 5, but could take place earlier ©Getty Images

Given that a number of recent and upcoming multi-sport hosts, such as Rio 2016 and Pyeongchang 2018, have claimed their populations are late buyers when confronted with ailing ticket sales, one can only imagine the scramble for tickets if the same thing occurs on the Gold Coast. Interest in securing tickets is only likely to rise further in the coming months as the Games draw closer and teams continue to be announced.

Already, star names have confirmed their attendance, such as South African track and field star Wayde van Niekerk and England's swimmer Adam Peaty. The presence of the Olympic champions and world record holders will only drive excitement further.

Gold Coast 2018 have also not been shy in their attempts to encourage Usain Bolt, Jamaica's eight-time Olympic sprint gold medallist, to attend the Games. While it would be in an ambassadorial role, Bolt's potential involvement would undoubtedly attract even more attention, globally, towards the multi-sport event.

A series of announcements will also be planned by organisers as the Games draw closer, including the various competition schedules. In recent weeks, the courses for the marathons and triathlons have been unveiled, with both set to show off the best of the city. With the routes set to head down the coast, it is clear that the television pictures which will be beamed across the world will present the city impressively, with high rise buildings on one side of the courses and golden beaches on the other.

The countdown has also continued with the reveal of the competing teams in the basketball and netball competitions. Their preliminary schedules have also been confirmed and further announcements are likely to follow.

One of the major upcoming announcements for the Games will come next month, when the medals are set to be revealed. They will be displayed at a charity gala dinner on November 4, with attendees due to be the first to get a glimpse of the gold, silver and bronze.

The gala will raise money for the Gold Coast Community Fund, an umbrella organisation which distributes money to charities, community organisations and people in need of emergency support. The fund was announced as the official charity of the Commonwealth Games back in August.

Olympic champion and world record holder Adam Peaty is among the athletes already confirmed for the Games ©Getty Images
Olympic champion and world record holder Adam Peaty is among the athletes already confirmed for the Games ©Getty Images

As well as the exclusive reveal of the Games medals, which are being produced by the Royal Australian Mint, an auction is set to be held with the promise of "once in a lifetime experiences" at the Games being on offer.

Training for volunteers will be another important step for organisers as they seek to ensure they have the workforce to effectively run operations. More than 47,000 applications were received for volunteer roles earlier this year, with a total of 15,000 positions up for grabs.

Gold Coast 2018 said they had received applications from 117 different countries, with 99 per cent of them being in the Commonwealth. However, of the applicants, 91 per cent actually live in Australia. With offers now sent out, the successful candidates will take part at a four-day orientation event in November.

TAFE Queensland, a local educational institution, will provide specialist training to the volunteers during the event. Further training is then expected to take place in the months building up to the Games. The reveal of volunteer uniforms could be another announcement, with successful candidates expected to start receiving their kit from January.

There have also been efforts to engage the local population with the Games. This includes the official branding featuring prominently throughout the city, as well as the Gold Coast 2018 surfboard countdown clock, located at Surfers Paradise. Most notably, the engagement was clear during the one-year to go celebrations, which offered a glimpse into the "Festival 2018" arts and culture programme. The musical acts at the event highlighted the free public celebrations that organisers will look to produce alongside the sporting competition.

The most prominent public celebration in the build-up to the Games will be the Baton Relay, which is due to arrive at Brisbane Airport on Christmas Eve. Its arrival will come 100 days before the Games and will follow the completion of its international tour, which will conclude in Oceania.

The arrival of the Queen's Baton in Australia on Christmas Eve will mark 100 days to go to the Games ©Getty Images
The arrival of the Queen's Baton in Australia on Christmas Eve will mark 100 days to go to the Games ©Getty Images

It will then conduct a 100-day journey across the country, visiting every state and territory. The Baton contains a message from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II that calls on the Commonwealth's athletes to come together in a peaceful and friendly competition. The message will be taken from the Baton and read at the Opening Ceremony, which will be officially opened by Prince Charles.

Preparations are underway for the Ceremony, which will be produced by Jack Morton Worldwide. It has already been revealed that a cast of 4,000 will feature, with the aim of presenting the city to the world. This will include nods to its surfing beaches, high-rise dominated skyline, theme parks and nightlife.

A total of 400 surf live savers are due to feature in the Ceremony, but organisers have admitted they currently have a shortage of men, meaning they plan to visit local sports and social clubs to recruit males.

Frankly, when a lack of male performers is cited as an issue, six months out from a Games, it would be fair to suggest that things must be progressing well.

There is still clearly work left for organisers to do as they prepare for the deluge of athletes and officials on March 25, when training venues, the main press centre and Athletes' Village will open and Games-time transport begins. 

It will be followed by a Commonwealth Sport Ministers Conference, the CGF General Assembly and eventually the Opening Ceremony on April 4.

Given the progress to date, you would expect Gold Coast 2018 to pass upcoming tests and deliver an impressive Commonwealth Games.