February 27 - Athletics legend Ron Clarke has resigned as Mayor of the Gold Coast to run for a seat in Queensland's State election next month and he has claimed that ensuring a successful 2018 Commonwealth Games will be one of his key priorities if he is elected.
The 75-year-old from Victoria was a key figure throughout the Gold Coast 2018 bid campaign and his presence at the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) General Assembly in St Kitts and Nevis in November played a decisive factor in helping the Australian city hold off sole rivals Hambantota of Sri Lanka by 43 votes to 27.
He has now resigned as Mayor – meaning that the Gold Coast City Council comes under caretaker mode – to stand as an independent candidate for the highly marginal state seat of Broadwater in the north of the Gold Coast, with the state election set to take place on March 24.
"I never even considered running as a candidate for either major party [the Australian Labor Party and Liberal National Party (LNP)] because I would be required to toe the party line," said Clarke as he declared himself a candidate.
"The Gold Coast has burning issues that none of the major parties are addressing.
"I want to see the city being properly represented in the planning processes for the Commonwealth Games it will host in 2018.
"So many of our citizens worked so hard to obtain the Games that I see it as my moral duty to ensure the city inherits its proper legacy from their staging.
"I'm concerned the Government wants to move some of the events to Brisbane to justify investing in Brisbane rather than the Gold Coast."
Clarke (pictured lighting the Olympic Cauldron at the Sydney 2000 Games) is known widely across Australia as one of the world's best middle and long-distance runners during the 1960s and he lit the Olympic Flame at the Melbourne 1956 Olympic Games when he was still a promising 19-year-old.
He won Olympic bronze at the Tokyo 1964 Games and four Commonwealth Games silver medals across three editions of the competition, as well as setting 17 world records in a remarkable career.
But Clarke suffered a major health scare during the Mexico City 1968 Olympic when collapsed and nearly died from altitude sickness sustained during the gruelling 10,000 metres final after refusing to quit despite struggling in the race from the outset.
He suffered permanent heart damage from this event but remarkably still got up to finish the event in sixth place despite remembering nothing of the last lap.
He recovered sufficiently to compete in the 5,000m heats a few days later but the heart condition has continued to plague him ever since.
However, he feels he is still fit enough to run for the state seat of Broadwater.
"It will not be easy for me to be elected, given the penchant of Australians to choose party representation and to consider everyone past 70 as 'over the hill'," he said.
"But, as the old saying goes 'nothing hard [or worthwhile] is ever easy'."
Clarke's campaign comes after the LNP disendorsed its Broadwater candidate, solicitor Cameron Caldwell, for attending a swingers' club four years ago.
Caldwell was the second Broadwater candidate disendorsed by the LNP in recent months, after original choice Richard Towson was caught drink-driving.
But Clarke feels a bigger challenge will come for the LNP's new candidate – the Broadwater State Electorate Council chair Verity Varton.
"She's young, female and intelligent," he said.
Clarke is the second Queensland mayor to enter the state election after former Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman joined the contest a year ago in an attempt to oust current Queensland Premier Anna Bligh (pictured right) and become the new Premier himself.
Newman welcomed Clarke's nomination but warned voters against supporting independents.
"It's a democracy and if he wishes to do that [nominate], that's fine," Newman said.
"But we believe that the only people will get this state back on track is to vote for the LNP.
"If people vote for minor parties and independents, what are they going to get?
"More taxes, a lot of trouble."
Should Bligh hold off Newman and win the election, she is likely to oversee the preparations for the Games personally by appointing herself as Commonwealth Games Minister.
However, both Bligh and Newman are said to be keen to have Clarke involved in the preparations for the 2018 Commonwealth Games following his contribution to the successful bid and he is likely to be appointed to the Gold Coast 2018 Organising Committee Board when it is set up after the state election regardless of the election results.
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