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Source: www.insidethegames.biz By Tom Degun in New Delhi

Gold Coast bid chairman predicts tough battle for 2018 GamesOctober 12 - Mark Stockwell (pictured right), chairman of the Gold Coast 2018 bid team, told insidethegames his team faces a tough fight with Hambantota to secure the 21st Commonwealth Games - despite media reports suggesting the Australian city is the early front-runner.

Gold Coast stole a march on their rivals during their trip to Delhi by taking the opportunity to give a presentation to the 71 countries and territories of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) at a special meeting attended by Prince Edward just six days ago.

The Hambantota bid team chose not to make a presentation, despite the fact that attendees of the meeting will vote for the city that hosts the 2018 event, sparking claims that the competition is now the Gold Coast’s for the taking.

However, Stockwell completely dismissed such suggestions predicting the vote will come right down to the wire.

He said: "I felt that here in Delhi, the time was right to get on the front foot, play a few of our cards and show a little bit of what we’re about and what we have to offer.

"But to say that we’re ahead in the bid race or anything like that is just nonsense and I don’t believe that at all.

"It’s very much a two-horse race and Hambantota are definitely out there lobbying hard for it.

"They haven’t really played their hand yet, so to be honest I don’t really know anything at all about their bid.

"They’re holding their cards very close to their chest but they’ve obviously got their own game plan and they know what they are doing.

Gold Coast bid chairman predicts tough battle for 2018 Games"They may not have taken the opportunity to make a presentation on their bid but they have done everything that has been requested of them through the official channels so you can’t ask for much more.

"The best thing we can do though is concentrate on what we can deliver and we’re going to keep fighting as hard as we can.

"The Commonwealth Games is a competition where we pay homage to athletes’ competing and we are definitely in a competition with this bid so we’re competing hard."

After major problems in Delhi - ranging from health and safety concerns to reports of corruption and high profile athlete boycotts - it is considered likely that the CGF would be tempted to take the lower risk option of taking the 2018 Games to Australia, which has hosted the competition four times before, mostly recent in 2006 when Melbourne staged a highly successful event that earned more in sponsorship revenue than the 2000 Sydney Olympics and Paralympics.

Stockwell however, disagrees.

"It is fair to say the CGF know what they are going to get coming to the Gold Coast.

"They’ve all been to Sydney for the Olympic and Paralympics in 2000 and they’ve all been to Melbourne for the Commonwealth Games in 2006 so they know what we are going to offer.

"Yes, maybe we do offer the safer option on paper but there are times when the CGF will want to take a risk and take the Games to new parts of the world so that’s what we’re really up against.

"I mean, it would get a bit boring if the Commonwealth Games were the same all the time.

"I would say that we offer a different Games on the Gold Coast.

"Australia is such a big country that you can’t really compare Melbourne or Sydney to the Gold Coast geographically because they are so far away - it is almost like they are in different countries.

"I feel the Gold Coast would be a great addition to the Commonwealth Games because it’s relaxed, it’s really beautiful and the lack of formality from the laid back people there would be a great feature.

"We’re obviously over here working hard on building relationships with the Commonwealth Games family, learning from Delhi and actually working closely with the Glasgow 2014 team, who have been very helpful in sharing information which is great and how it should be.

"But we know we’ve got a real scrap on our hands with Hambantota and we’ll be giving it everything we’ve got until the end."