By Grace Mason
The city of Cairns, North Queensland will be riding high over the next few weeks, not on a sheep’s back, but on the backs of thousands of athletes.
More than $10 million is set to be tipped into the region’s coffers as the Great Barrier Reef Masters Games and Ironman circuses arrive in town.
For three consecutive weekends the Far North will be a hive of sporting activity, starting on May 25 when Cairns hosts its second GBR masters event.
“The town is really starting to come alive,” Cairns councillor and sport and community services chairwoman Cathy Zeiger said. “Everywhere is getting booked up. Sports tourism is just amazing and I believe it is going to step up again.”
About 1500 people are already signed up to compete in the 22 sports which are part of this year’s four-day Masters Event, including athletics, netball, hockey and soccer. This is an increase of more than 30 per cent from the 2015 games.
It is estimated that the event will net the city $1 million and Queensland $2 million with about a fifth of the competitors travelling from interstate or internationally.
The Cairns Airport Adventure Festival kicks off the following weekend at Port Douglas with the Coral Coast triathlon events, the RRR Mountain Bike Ride and the Hekili Great Barrier Reef Ocean Challenge all happening on June 4.
About 6000 athletes are expected to compete in the week-long festival, which culminates in the Ironman and 70.3 events on June 11.
Zeiger said competitor numbers were similar to last year, which generated $10 million for the Far North, so it was expected to have the same impact in 2017.
There were more than 50,000 visitor nights to the region in 2016 from Ironman while visitor spending totalled $8.19 million.
Ironman’s head of partnerships Oceania and Asia Jeff Gillies said direct flights to Cairns from Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan were filling fast with competitors and their families, many of whom were expected to holiday in the region afterwards.
Dates: May 25-28
Sports: Archery, athletics (track & field), baseball, basketball, beach volleyball, clay target shooting, cricket, soccer, golf, hockey, judo, mountain biking, netball, softball, squash, swimming, tennis, tenpin bowling, touch football, cycling, cricket — women’s
Economic benefit: $1 million (Cairns), $2 million (Qld)
International athletes: 180
Interstate athletes: 310
Mountain bikes to hit new heights
THE mountain bike element of the Cairns Airport Adventure Festival could be in for a major facelift.
The popular RRR Mountain Bike Challenge is the longest running ‘point to point’ race in Australia and this will be the 27th straight year it will be run on June 4.
Ironman’s head of partnerships Oceania and Asia Jeff Gillies hinted during a visit to Cairns last week that they had their sights on that element of the festival.
Ironman made a major move into the mountain bike market in August last year after they acquired the renowned Cape Epic mountain bike race in South Africa.
Mr Gillies revealed several sites were inspected during the Far North trip and the opening weekend of the festival, based at Port Douglas, was growing.
“That first weekend, we’re absolutely boosted by how popular the RRR is,” he said.
“We are developing our mountain biking strategy globally and looking at development in the future.”
What the week-long festival brings to the city:
- June 4: Coral Coast Triathlon (sprint and enticer), RRR Mountain Bike Challenge, Hekili Great Barrier Reef Ocean Challenge
- June 8: Green Island Reef Swim
- June 9: Cairns Post Bright Night Run
- June 10: IronKids
- June 11: Ironman and 70.3
2016 By the numbers:
- FNQ Visitors: 18,000
- Night stays: 50,578
- Visitor spending: $8.19 million
- Economic benefit: Over $10 million
- Interstate competitors: 1500
- International competitors: 1300