In 1982, Brisbane hosted the XII Commonwealth Games. During this event, our Nathan campus was transformed into the 'Games Village' and became the temporary home for over 2000 athletes and officials from 45 countries across the Commonwealth. While many considered the '82 Games 'put Brisbane on the map' - acting as the Games Village had some significant positive outcomes for our university. Not least of which was the fact that the athletes' quarters would eventually become the Nathan student accommodation colleges we know today as Barakula, Bellenden Ker, Girraween and Kinaba.
The idea of Brisbane hosting a Commonwealth Games in Brisbane came from former Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Clem Jones. Jones was inspired after visiting the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games (as it was known then) which was held in Perth, Western Australia. A belated nomination saw Brisbane miss the bid to host the 1978 Games. But a determined Jones continued to build momentum for Brisbane to host this sporting event and in 1974, Brisbane City Council formally advised the Australian Commonwealth Games Association that Brisbane would like to host the 1982 Games. When the only other bidding city (Birmingham in England) pulled out of the running to host the '82 Games - Brisbane was named unopposed as the host city.
As part of major infrastructure and sporting venue works across Brisbane for the '82 Games - the QE II Jubilee Sports Centre (or QE II) would be built adjacent to our Nathan campus and would serve as the venue for the opening/closing cermonies and athletics. Our visionary foundation Vice Chancellor, Professor John Willett, recognised that our need for onsite student housing and the need for an Athletes Village provided a unique opportunity. The proximity of QE II (on land adjoining Nathan campus) meant that our university was the perfect spot to house Games competitors and officials. With a lot of hard work and some deft negotiating - Professor Willett successfully orchestrated our university becoming the home of the XII Commonwealth Games Village. After five years of persistent talks and lobbying - the contract for our organisation to provide the '82 Games Village and a range of other services for this event - was signed on the December 1 1981.
Construction of the Games Village had actually begun on 9 February 1979 and the first twenty-two flats (of an eventual 700 residents complex) were completed on the 29 February 1980. It was always intended students at the time would use the Games Village accommodation up until the Commonwealth Games and be required to vacate the housing during the event. So with this in mind, seventy-two students moved into the available flats during 'O-Week' (March) 1980 and became our first students to take up residence on-campus. 'The Hub' - as it is still known today - was officially opened on March 19 to serve as kitchen and dining areas for the competitors, officials and volunteers. The building was also originally meant to house a gift store, hairdresser and other commercial activities. However, due to space pressures, commercial activities had to be dispersed around the university, rather than in a central location (The Hub) as originally intended.
Converting Nathan campus into what was essentially a fully serviced urban centre for over 2000 temporary residents and up to 500 volunteers (at any one time) - was a huge challenge for our university's management. Not only was there the Housing Village and The Hub to be constructed and ready for use - many of the existing university buildings had to be 'repurposed'. Our 'Science 1' building had some laboratories converted to a hairdressing salon, a sports store and a communications (telephone) centre. University House (now the Sewell Building) had the then Student Lounge converted into a nightclub. The Humanities Building (now the Macrossan Building) had lecture theatres converted into lounge rooms with televisions.
The Village had to be ready to accept athletes for a nine week period beginning 28 August. And the university would be closed off to academic activities from 30 September to 10 October - the duration of the Games. This disruption clearly had implications for our 1982 Semester 2 timetable. An original compromised Semester 2 timetable was rejected by students - due largely to the fact that the document made a number of assumptions that were not relevant to, and did apply equally across, all areas of study across all Schools. These legitimate student concerns saw the Academic Commitee (of the time) and our university's management renegotiate with our Schools to develop timetables specific to the student study requirements of each individual School. However, rightly or wrongly, this disruption to student study for this period was considered a minor factor when compared against the overall organisational benefits we gained by hosting the Games Village.
Administrating the XII Commonwealth Games Village
Despite numerous challenging administrative and academic scheduling hurdles - Nathan campus was ready for the Games Foundation administrative staff to take up their offices on the 29 August in preparation for the arrival of athletes and officials. The then School of Australian Environmental Studies (AES) Building (now Environment 1) was the administrative centre for the Village. AES provided space for Games administrators, village orientation, accreditation, security, tourist information, finance, media and the 'Village Courier' - the 'local' newspaper for the soon to arrive Village residents.
The Queensland Police and Australian Army also provided invaluable administrative support to the running of the precinct. The police established and maintained security checkpoints throughout the campus. Mounted police carried out patrols of campus on horseback. The Army completed many tasks requiring many hands. This included moving beds, desks, chairs, typewriters, cupboards and many other forms of furniture - around the site. One of the largest undertakings by the Army was the sorting and distribution of 9640 bed sheets to be used by residents during the games. Organisers also relied heavily on the efforts of volunteers with over 500 individuals contributing to the successful running of the site during the event.
With our university devoting nine weeks to the preparation, hosting and clean-up after of the Games Village - it meant that some academic and general staff were 'quiet' and able to provide much needed administrative support to this endeavour. In particular, our stretched Site and Buildings Division were appreciative of the forty-one staff from across the university who came on board to help with such things as the visitor Bus Schuttle and parking control. Our volunteer staff between them contributed around 465 days of 'normal' work and around 99 days worth of 'out of hours' work. University staff were compensated for this work with a 'time in lieu' arrangement. By comparison, 'Time in Lieu' for the forty-four staff of the Site and Buildings Division reached a total of 648 days of leave owed during the five week period they were rostered on to help administrate the Village.
Life at the XII Commonwealth Games Village
The Village was always intended to be a 'home away from home' for the athletes and international officials during their stay. So a great deal of emphasis was placed on providing a precinct with many opportunities for residents to socialise and relax. Put simply - the Games' organisers and our university wanted the athletes enticed from their rooms. So, daily shows featuring local and international acts were held in the Undercroft and on the Humanities (now Macrossan Building) lawn - spaces still used by our university today for entertainment purposes. Residents were treated to performances by school bands, clowns, mime artists and dance companies from all over the Commonwealth. External tours of Brisbane and surrounding areas were also in high demand by athletes and officials.
The Cinema (still in use today) was used for feature film releases and demand became so high that sessions were increased from two to three a day. The classic Australian movie - 'The Man from Snowy River' - proved so popular with residents that it was screened at least four times. There were also many other 'attractions' around the village to keep the athletes entertained. Billiards/snooker, table tennis, boardgames and even a 'life-sized' chess board proved popular with residents. Athletes, officials and volunteers were also treated to encounters with a variety of native Australian birds and animals courtesy of Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Perhaps not surprisingly - there were often long queues of people waiting to have their photo taken with a koala.
The other huge drawcard in the Village was the 'Woolshed Disco' which saw the -1 Level of the then University House (now the Sewell Building) become a nightclub. The disco had a painted wall mural with iconic Australian images and bales of wool, hay and farm implements were set-up around the area to create a 'bush' feel. The nightclub was managed by disc jockeys (DJ's) from local Brisbane radio station 4BK (later B105 FM) and became more and more crowded as atheletes finished with competition and did not have to worry about training or late nights. During the time the Woolshed and the attached 'Village Bar' operated - from 12 September to 16 October - some 12500 cans of beer and 10000 litres of 'tap' beer were consumed. This commercial activity was considered a huge success by our university's management and plans were put in place to establish a licensed University Club at University House.
After the '82 Games
As mentioned above, hosting the Games Village provided our organisation with many windfalls that are still apparent today at Nathan campus. Today's onsite student residences would not have become available so soon had we not hosted those athletes back in 1982. As well, an administration building constructed for use during the games was later converted into our fifth School building - The School of Social and Industrial Relations. We know this building today (in an altered form) as the home of our Business School (N50). The cost to our university to build the Hub, the Housing Village and the N50 building was three million dollars. Had we not hosted the Games Village and in turn received sizable government funding for construction of these buildings - our estimated cost back then would have been ten million dollars.
The networks established by Griffith University resulting from our involvement in this event were also beneficial. Many important contacts were established across the three levels of government in Australia and important local and interstate business contacts were now available. Our standing as a university on the international stage was also greatly enhanced by this enterprise. With visits from Queen Elizabeth II, legendary actor Charlton Heston, Prime Ministers and Ministers from around the Commonwealth and many other international dignitaries - we were no longer the 'other' university in Brisbane.
On an organisational level - hosting the Games Village was invaluable. The goodwill and understanding established between and across the Divisions of our university was immeasurable. Academic staff now had an understanding of the issues faced by general staff in areas such as parking, security, waste removal and maintenance. General staff - particularly those in the Site and Buildings Division - benefited greatly from some of the technical skills that staff from our Schools were able to utilise in helping with administration of the site. The effort of our staff in running the Village before, during and after the Commonwealth Games can perhaps be best summed up by our Site and Buildings Manager of the time - Sam Ragusa.
"To those who worked hard for the Games Period, special thanks are due. For they were the many sprockets, pinions and gears without any one of which the whole machine could have ground to a halt".