by TRENTON AKERS, GREG STOLZ
QUEENSLAND regions are set to cash in as international Commonwealth Games teams arrive in the Sunshine State to set up camp, as new figures reveal the Gold Coast has already reaped a $50 million windfall from new Games venues.
Some of the world's best athletes began arriving last week, and will bring millions of dollars in economic benefit for regional centres.
Toowoomba, Warwick and the Sunshine Coast are set to be big winners, with teams locking down grassroots venues for training before the Games, such as the Warwick Indoor Aquatic Centre and boxing and bowling clubs across the southeast.
Well-known Queensland venues such as Brisbane's Ballymore stadium and the Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre will be used.
The bonanza comes as a Gold Coast City Council report reveals the Glitter Strip's hundreds of millions of dollars of new and upgraded sports facilities built for the Games have already achieved a massive return on investment.
About 2 million people, from sports enthusiasts to elite athletes, have used Games venues, including the upgraded Gold Coast Aquatic Centre and new indoor sports centres at Carrara and Coomera, pumping an estimated $50 million into city coffers.
The public patronage is expected to continue after next month's Games, in a major legacy benefit of hosting the $2 billion international sporting spectacular.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the influx of athletes and team officials would be a vital boost to businesses in struggling regional towns.
"This will generate even more enthusiasm for the Games and will help encourage our local junior athletes in the lead-up to the largest event in Queensland's history," she said.
"It's also a big shot in the arm for local businesses who will cater for hundreds and hundreds of athletes and officials over the next month."
The English team will be the biggest, with more than 500 athletes and officials staying in South Brisbane, where they will use the Somerville House swimming pool and QSAC for pre-event training.
World record holder and Olympic gold medallist Adam Peaty will be among some of the stars calling Brisbane home in the lead-up. The breaststroke champion will use Somerville House's aquatic centre. Also in the English team is diver Tom Daley, the current world champ and three-time Games gold medallist.
Other teams such as Scotland will train on the Sunshine Coast, using facilities such as the Clippers basketball stadium, Nambour Weightlifting Club and Mooloolaba beach for beach volleyball training. Team Cameroon will be based in Toowoomba, where they will use local gyms and facilities.
About 1500 athletes will call Queensland home during the Games.
Meanwhile, Australians will be able to get a glimpse at their world-beating women's rugby sevens team who will base themselves on the Sunshine Coast as they prepare to defend their title.
Other teams such as India, Nigeria and Northern Ireland will head to the Gold Coast towards the end of this month to train at Somerset College and the Sports Super Centre in Runaway Bay.
Commonwealth Games Minister Kate Jones said having star athletes using grassroots facilities would also boost local youth sports participation.
"This is a chance for towns across the state to play a part in hosting the Commonwealth Games, the biggest event in Queensland for generations," she said.
"It's a huge vote of confidence in our venues and a testament to the hard work we've been doing to attract teams to our state in the lead-up to the Games. We will rub shoulders with some of the most recognisable athletes in the world.
"The Games is set to generate $4 billion for our economy and we want to see local businesses put their best foot forward to capitalise on this great opportunity."
The Queen, in her Commonwealth Day message delivered overnight, made reference to the upcoming Games, saying sport contributed to building peace and development.
"The excitement and positive potential of friendly rivalry will be on display next month as we enjoy the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, Australia,'' she said.