“Queensland we did it!” state Premier Anna Bligh tweeted from St. Kitts on Friday evening. “We got back up again & we won the 2018 Commonwealth Games.”
Speaking after the vote, an emotional Bligh said she knew many delegates had been torn about which city to choose.
“I think the vote reflected that this was a very close contest,” said Bligh.
“Twenty-seven countries in the Commonwealth believed Hambantota was the best bid and I think that’s a great credit to them.
“It also means if there were eight or nine delegates who changed their mind from the Gold Coast then the Games would be in Sri Lanka — that’s very close,” said Bligh, who hours earlier had paid a courtesy call on St. Kitts and Nevis’ Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard welcomed the news which she said would present a huge economic opportunity for Queensland’s second largest city.
“All Australia will be looking forward to hosting the Commonwealth Games,” she told reporters at the APEC summit in Hawaii.
Thousands of people gathered at Gold Coast’s Broadwater Parklands erupted in jubilation as the announcement was shown live from the Commonwealth Games Federation’s General Assembly in the Caribbean nation of St. Kitts and Nevis.
“My sincere congratulations to Gold Coast, theirs was a fantastic bid and they are a very, very worthy winner,” federation president Michael Fennell said after the 70 nations and territories in attendance voted 43 to 27 for the city.
“Hambantota was also a very strong bid, and we have a duty to take the Games to new places, but the bid needs to be the right thing for the Commonwealth Games movement at the right time,” Fennell said.
Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapakse congratulated Australia and said his nation would aim to do well at the games despite the failed bid.
“This should serve as an added encouragement for them to go to Gold Coast and do very well,” Rajapakse said.
Gold Coast, a sub-tropical tourist hotspot that is home to more than 500,000 people, promised to provide a stark contrast to last year’s host and its “low-risk” message won over delegates.
Australia said hosting the Commonwealth Games for the fifth time, becoming the only nation ever to do so, would allow it to showcase its ability to host major international sporting events and be a shot in the arm for tourism.
Gold Coast is in the southeast of Queensland, a state which is coming back from devastating floods almost a year ago which swamped tens of thousands of homes and briefly shut down the state capital Brisbane.
Australia has a long association with the Commonwealth Games, hosting the event four times — in Sydney (1938), Perth (1962), Brisbane (1982) and Melbourne (2006).
The country’s biggest city Sydney held the 2000 Olympics and the nation hosted the Rugby World Cup in 2003.
Gold Coast is known for its fine weather and long beaches and tourism operators said the Games would help revive the flagging sector hurt by last summer’s floods and the soaring Australian dollar.
The Games bring together athletes from 71 Commonwealth countries and the 2014 event is to be held in Glasgow in Scotland.