May 8 - Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) chief executive Mike Hooper has praised the contribution of Mark Stockwell in helping the Gold Coast win the right to stage the 2018 Commonwealth Games but said that the hugely controversial decision to fire him is fully down to the relevant bodies in Australia.
Stockwell (pictured above, left), a former swimmer who won three medals at the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games, played a huge role in helping the Queensland city secure the international, multisport event as chairman of the bid team that defeated sole rivals Hambantota of Sri Lanka by 43 votes to 27 at the CGF General Assembly in St Kitts and Nevis.
The 48-year-old was unsurprisingly confirmed as chairman of Gold Coast 2018 by former Queensland Premier Anna Bligh of the Australian Labor Party (ALP), who was known to be close to Stockwell.
But Bligh was ousted from office in March after she was crushed in the State elections by Campbell Newman, the new Queensland Premier, of the Liberal National Party (LNP).
Newman appointed Jann Stuckey as the Commonwealth Games Minister and it was left to Stuckey to confirm that Stockwell had been sacked as she claimed that it was time to "transition to a Board that has the confidence of the Government, the [Australia] Commonwealth Games Association, and the public".
It is widely believed that Stockwell had been sacked due to the fact that he was appointed by Bligh (pictured below, second left) but while the CGF chief executive refused to comment on the speculation, he praised Stockwell and admitted that the organisation respects the decision that has been made.
"The decision to appoint a board for the 2018 Commonwealth Games is a matter for the Queensland Government and the Australian Commonwealth Games Association (ACGA) and we respect that," Hooper (pictured top, right with Stockwell) told insidethegames.
"Mark obviously made a great contribution to the Gold Coast, to Queensland and to Australia in leading their successful bid team and he deserves full credit for that.
"We wish Mark well for the future and we look forward to meeting with the new Government and the new Board when the CGF President [Prince Tunku Imran] and I visit the Gold Coast for an update on preparations in June."
The new board will be set up this week with Nigel Chamier, a Brisbane businessman who, like Stockwell, is a property developer, set to be named as the new chairman after backing from the ACGA.
ACGA chairman Sam Coffa (pictured above, first left), who helped appoint Stockwell as chairman, has publically denied that his organisation wanted to see Stockwell go, while Premier Newman refused to shed any light on the issue, simply saying that it was "now time to go to the second stage of this, which is to deliver the Games".
Stockwell reportedly clashed with the new Government over where to build the Athletes' Village for the Games.
He wanted to locate it in Parklands, an area of the city that includes pavilions, showgrounds and function areas but there was opposition to the plan from the Gold Coast Harness Racing Club, the Gold Coast Show Society and Big Day Out organisers, who wanted the village relocated.
By Tom Degun