Louise Martin has expressed fears nations might not attend Gold Coast 2018 unless issues surrounding visas are resolved, with the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) President labelling it the “biggest risk to the Games.”
Concerns over the visa process have been raised at the Chef de Mission seminar, which is currently ongoing here.
Several Commonwealth Games Associations (CGAs) have expressed concerns to insidethegames, regarding the procedures currently in place, with a number questioning whether they are welcome to Australia.
Under the system for the Games, applications would need to be made separately for accreditation and visas.
It would be a major move away from previous editions of the multi-sport event, where visas would be part of the accreditation process.
A key problem also surrounds individuals being required to apply for their own visas for the Games, such as athletes, team officials and guests.
Previously, the processes would have been handily by CGAs, team managers and Chef de Missions.
The decision to make individuals responsible has been met with opposition by CGAs, with fears the administrative change could lead to people missing out on attending the Games.
With individuals having been made to apply directly, CGAs are concerned forms could be filled in wrongly or not at all.
This is due to a number of factors, ranging from the lack of internet access in areas of some countries making it difficult for individuals to fill out applications, as well as literacy levels and errors.
It is feared CGAs could find themselves in a position where they are unaware whether athletes and team officials have been granted visas for the Games or not.
Martin told insidethegames she was hopeful the Australian Federal Government would act to simplify the visa process.
“It is the complexity of the situation, which is causing this problem,” Martin said.
“CGAs, team managers and Chefs are now not allowed to do their team.
“Individual members now have to fill in their own form by email.
“With all due respect, everyone is not on the same playing field.
“Some don’t have laptops, some don’t have email address and people are of all different ages.
“Some countries are also so huge and areas do not even have wifi.
“There are a lot of different areas that are causing problems, they are big problems.
“We need to hope that things will be simplified.
“That was what was coming out of yesterday and to me, visas are the biggest problem.”
Another concern centres around athletes and officials who already have existing visas for Australia, allowing them to work or study in the country.
By applying for a visa to attend the Commonwealth Games, current terms would be halted, with no guarantees they would resume following the completion of the multi-sport event.
insidethegames understands some CGAs called for special dispensation to ensure existing visas remain unaffected.
Martin claimed that if the visa issues were not resolved by the Australian Federal Government, there could be a situation where countries opt not to attend.
“To me, it is the biggest risk to the Games,” Martin said.
“If we do not get the visa situation sorted out, I honestly believe from what I heard yesterday, a number of countries won’t come.
“Some of them have special visas already which would have to be put aside, and then they are not getting them back.
“This is their livelihood for some people.
“They are not going to risk their livelihood, irrespective of what they think and how much they value competing in the Games.
“They just will not do it.
The CGF President acknowledged the Federal Government’s efforts to ensure the safety and security of the Games, which will take place between April 4 and 15 next year.
Martin expressed her hope the Government could make changes in the coming weeks to ensure the visa situation would be resolved.
“Australia has to be safe and secure, we all understand that,” Martin said.
“The security people, from federal, regional and state are really working hard together.
“From what I have seen and heard, it’s brilliant.
“From that side of things, to then come to into an area where you go ‘that’s not going to stop anyone coming, and it probably will with the visas.”
Martin labelled the visa situation as the only issue causing concern at the seminar, with the CGF President reserving praise for Gold Coast 2018’s efforts, with less than six months to go to the Games.
She stated that the organisers are leaving nothing to chance in their own preparations and that they were listening to feedback being provided by the Chef de Missions.
The CGF President offered her endorsement of the Athletes’ Village, which was handed to organisers last week, with the site having also impressed officials from CGAs when they visited yesterday.
“Every single member of the Gold Coast 2018 team needs to be congratulated,” Martin said.
“Don’t get me wrong, there is still a long way to go and we are working through things.
“But if they do what they say they are going to do, and I am convinced they will, these will be excellent Games.”