CGF President Louise Martin CBE made a moving and special tribute to outgoing CGA President Sam Coffa AM JP at the 2018 Commonwealth Games Australia President’s Dinner at the MCG last week.
See below for the full speech.
Good Evening. I am truly honoured to be here this evening to address you all, congratulate Commonwealth Games Australia on a fantastic year and – above all – acknowledge Sam Coffa’s commitment to Commonwealth Sport. And what a year it has been. It is only a few months since we all enjoyed a sunny and spectacular 11 days of sensational sport at Gold Coast 2018.
All the athletes, all the locals, all the volunteers welcomed the Commonwealth – from Anguilla to Zambia – with open arms, a friendly face, a pat on the back. Once again, we were left in no doubt about your passion for sport. With your help, this year has been an incredible year of impact and progress for the Commonwealth Games Federation.
Together, we christened Gold Coast 2018 the “Games of Firsts” and the Games that will have lasting positive change on our sports movement. We were the first International multi-sport event to have equal medal opportunities for men and women. These were the first Games to include a reconciliation action plan recognising the first nation peoples of the entire Commonwealth.
First ever medals were won by 5 different countries – Vanuatu, Cook Islands, Solomon Islands, British Virgin Islands and Dominica.
You delivered, in every sense, a world-class event. And of course, you delivered a phenomenal result in terms of home nation medals – creating a thrilling arena for spectators and participants, with loud and proud support. Your contribution to Commonwealth Sport is not unnoticed. At Gold Coast 2018 we all experienced how you truly delivered on your vision: “To inspire and unite all Australians through the pursuit of sporting excellence”.
Of course, the 21st edition of the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast is the most recent chapter in a long, proud history of successfully hosting the Commonwealth Games. I am lucky enough to have first-hand experience of this as an athlete, when I competed at the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth. I was a young swimmer for Team Scotland – my first ever trip abroad, travelling to the other side of the world. Believe it or not, representing Team Australia also at Perth 1962 and at his first Commonwealth Games was another person in this room tonight: a young weightlifter called Sam Coffa. Although we didn’t meet properly until 1997, the journey through Commonwealth sport and administration that we have been on together, has made us friends for life.
Our first proper meeting came about when Australia started bidding to host the 2006 Commonwealth Games. I got to know Sam during the site visit to Melbourne before the vote in Fiji in 1999 to decide the host city. Sam made sure we got to know some of his haunts in Lygon Street, in the Italian quarter. Sam has been such a good friend and colleague ever since – trying to teach me all about Weightlifting, but still never converting me to try it!
His support of and for me during my time as Honorary Secretary and latterly in the role of President has been terrific. A real friendship has developed over these years – through sweat and tears – but no blood! In 1962, in 1982 in Brisbane, at the Bendigo Youth Games in 2004, at Melbourne 2006 and in Gold Coast 2018 – Sam and Australia have shown time and time again that it is an inspiring sporting stage for the Commonwealth.
And of course, this stage does not happen by magic. It is supported by a number of government and local city partners. For 2018, it was a stage on Yugambeh land, delivered in partnership with the local indigenous community.
Sam should feel particularly proud of Gold Coast 2018, which he guided and supported in his role as Vice-Chair On the 15th April, Sam helped me pass the Federation flag to Birmingham, the next host city. 2022 will build on your success, learning from everything you achieved. If you have never visited Birmingham – it is truly
the Commonwealth city. Every Commonwealth nationality is represented, 148 different languages are spoken. It’s the youngest city in Europe. With its rich history, cultural diversity, youthful dynamism and ambitious spirit, Birmingham embodies all that we cherish about the Commonwealth. Everyone looks forward to welcoming you there; and to showcasing the city’s humanity and pride to a global audience over the coming months and years.
Every Games is different: it is not about the biggest or the best – it’s about being true to yourself. You did just that. Millions of viewers and visitors and thousands of athletes from many new countries saw what you’re made of. For your successful delivery of Gold Coast 2018, I have incredible respect and gratitude. Our shared mission of being athlete centred, sport focussed could not come to fruition without these kinds of investments, commitments and innovations.
We can’t do this alone. The broader impact can only be achieved when we act together. With our shared vision of building peaceful, sustainable and prosperous communities coupled with localized and regionally relevant programs, we can move forward with a momentum never seen before. Tonight, I am thanking Commonwealth Games Australia – and of course, Sam Coffa – for all your vision, leadership, guidance and support. And tonight, I am not only thanking Sam for his friendship, but also for all his achievements as President of Commonwealth Games Australia for the past 20 years – not least at Gold Coast 2018.
Sam, you are going out on a high; a personal best; and – above all and in every sense, with everything you have achieved, and everything you have given back – one of the finest of Commonwealth athletes.
Sam, from me to you, and from everyone across the Commonwealth.