Gold Coast A Glowing Choice For Multi-Million Dollar ISL Solidarity Camp

THAT'S GOLD: Queensland's Gold Coast poised to get the nod for ISL Solidarity Camp. Photo Courtesy Team England.

Australian Dolphins Swim Team Head Coach Jacco Verhaeren says Queensland’s Gold Coast is the perfect place to host the International Swimming League’s Solidarity camp and match racing meets post the COVID-19.

Verhaeren has revealed to Swimming World the behind-the-scenes role he has played to convince the ISL bosses the Gold Coast ticks all the boxes for the multi-million dollar five-week program.

Jacco with Matt Wilson and Bronte Campbell

CENTRE OF ATTENTION: Gold Coast would be a winner for ISL Camp says Jacco Verhaeren, pictured here with Dolphins Matt Wilson and Bronte Campbell. Photo Courtesy Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

If the Gold Coast gets the nod over Budapest, Japan and Florida then South East Queensland will become the centre of world swimming in October –November this year.

More than 500 personnel – including 320 prospective Tokyo-bound worldwide Olympians – will converge on Australia’s popular sporting and surfing paradise, in a bold plan unveiled by the ISL over the weekend.

The camp and competition schedule would also include swimmers’ coaches, team and event staff, officials and television production crews, who would make the Gold Coast their home.

It would also bring timely international attention to South East Queensland in the countdown to Brisbane’s bid for the 2032 Olympics.

Here is a video tour of the Gold Coast facility ahead of the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships.

Our Coverage:

The Gold Coast Aquatic Centre, home of the 2018 Commonwealth Games and 2014 Pan Pacs, will be an obvious showpiece for the exciting 10-team match-racing format.

Bond and Griffith Universities and school pools at The Southport School, Somerset College, St Hilda’s School, All Saints School, as well as the Runaway Bay, Miami and Palm Beach Aquatic Centres are just some of the other world class facilities that would host the 10 visiting ISL franchises.

The current planned time frame will be largely dependent on the efforts to contain the deadly Coronavirus Pandemic which organisers know full well will be the telling factor in any of their planning.

But they are optimistic this first ever “Swimming Solidarity” camp and high-level match racing schedule (staged in its inaugural year in 2019), will go ahead.


ROAR OF A HOME CROWD: A world record of 54.89 in the 100 backstroke brought a huge smile to Minna Atherton’s face for the London Roar and a home town crowd would spur her on. Photos Courtesy ISL.

If the Gold Coast gets the green light for the planned five-week Olympic launching pad, it would feature the biggest names in the sport, led by Australia’s own Cate and Bronte Campbell, Kyle Chalmers, Emily Seebohm, Emma McKeon, Ariarne Titmus, Mitch Larkin and Alex Graham alongside boom youngsters Minna Atherton (who broke the first world record in the first ISL season) and fellow backstroke prodigy Kaylee McKeown.

The Aussies would be joined by the likes of international stars Katie Ledecky (USA), Adam Peaty (GBR), Caeleb Dressel (USA), Sarah Sjostrom (Sweden), Chad le Clos (South Africa) and Katinka Hosszu (Hungary).

The solidarity plans are part of an extra $6 million lifeline announced over the weekend by ISL owner Konstantin Grigorishin, who will pay swimmers a monthly retainer to participate in his four-five week long camp and competition schedule, and plans to produce his own TV Reality Show

There will be 30 ambassadors for the League, who will all receive between $US3, 500 and $US5, 000 a month for a 10-month period with all 320 swimmers on the payroll.

Verhaeren, who has been based on the Gold Coast with his family since 2013, has been the major conduit for the initial brainstorming and planning to bring the ISL to Australia – and to the Gold Coast.

Verhaeren has been the man who has convinced “his mates in Europe” that the Gold Coast is not only the best place, but also the only place to stage the “Swimming’s Solidarity” concept.

Jacco Excited To Host The World Down Under

Simon Cusack with Jacco

HAPPY CAMPERS: Jacco Verhaeren on deck with coach Simon Cusack. Photo Courtesy Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

Verhaeren has been in regular contact with ISL General Manager, legendary Italian coach and swimming management consultant Andrea Di Nino and ISL Technical Advisor, and two-time Greek Olympian Apostolos “Tollis” Tsagkarakis.

“There is no doubt that the Gold Coast is the perfect stage, the perfect platform to host this solidarity camp and competition,” said Verhaeren.

“I have been in close contact with Di Nino and ‘Tollis’ who I’ve had a long association with, sharing camps with them in Europe.

“It will be a massive operation for 320 swimmers, plus coaches, staff, television production it would be a great show with up to 500 people coming to the Gold Coast.

“The Gold Coast has been a mecca for overseas swimmers from Great Britain, Japan, the US and Europe for many, escaping their winters so they all known what the Gold Coast has to offer.


POOL SPACE: Gold Coast Aquatic Centre would play host to ISL. Photo Courtesy Gold Coast.

“There is no other place in the world like the Gold Coast with so many 50m pools all within a 15km radius – it will be the perfect place, with perfect facilities.

“Let’s all hope we will have this current COVID-19 situation behind us and with so much inactivity it will be also be a perfect boost for the Gold Coast and something for our swimmers to get excited about again.

“There will be a huge need to put the sport of swimming and the Gold Coast back on the map.

“It will be massive for swimming, massive for Australia and the Gold Coast, which is still not that well known in Europe as a destination – it is not as well known as it could be or should be.

“For the ISL team matches, the camp and the Reality TV it could not be in a better place and we will leave no stone unturned to get it here.

“A 4-5 week stint at that time of the year for the swimmers will be a perfect start for their Olympic preparations and will fit very well in October-November.

“It will create a massive platform with training and racing – I can’t think of a more ideal scenario for these athletes – giving them something to look forward to.

“It doesn’t take away from the fact that most of the world is in lockdown but it will be great for world swimming – it shows solidarity for swimming and gives them a future.

“We are proceeding, assuming it will happen and as far as we in Australia are concerned, we are more than happy to have a seat on the table (making decisions).


POOLING TALENT: Bond University has recently unveiled at new 25m pool to add to its existing 50m facility. Photo Courtesy: Bond University.

“Personally, from my perspective it is a good opportunity for me to help the sport, connecting people (on both sides of the world). in what will be a great opportunity for Australia, our swimmers and coaches and the world of swimming.”

Di Nino, a 15-year career head coach working with Serbian star Milo Cavic and Russian Evgenij Korotyskin, is the brains behind elite swimmer management company the ADN Swim Project.


Together with Tsagkarakis they were responsible for putting together the ISL’s inaugural season.

Tsagkarakis had two decades of international sports competitions and having participated at two Olympic Games as an athlete (Athens 2004 & Beijing 2008), decided to transfer this experience into a career specialising in International Relations, Recruiting and general Event Operations, as well as Sports Marketing having worked as a Speedo Marketing Manager.

Camp, Competition, Reality Show All Rolled Into One

Grigorshin, ISL founder and billionaire backer behind the Pro-Swim revolution, told Swimming World Magazine: “Our approach is we consider athletes as our partners, so before we made this decision we asked them what they wanted and this is what they told us, so it’s a swimming camp, it’s a competition and it’s a reality show all rolled into one.”

The cost of the camp and the related competitions would swell the ISL’s investment to more than $20 million as a solidarity measure on the way to a full season in 2021-22.

It will be the biggest individual corporate venture outside the major international competitions – the Olympics and World Championships – and has already been a major boost to swimming, following the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to 2021.

It is all part of the re-vised COVID-19 forced change to the second season of last year’s inaugural ISL season, that saw almost all of Australia’s potential 30-strong Olympic team, contracted to the eight team-cum-10-team competition for 2020-21.

The ISL announced that all 10 teams, 320 swimmers and their coaches have been invited to attend the five-week training-and-competition camp in October-November this year. The dates will be adjusted if the coronavirus pandemic demands.

More Innovations coming to ISL’s Second Season

The subsidised reunification of the swimming family would include an ISL-format competition each weekend, with 10 teams competing in matches of four teams at a time.

Innovations for the coming season include Skins for all strokes – the elimination concept first initiated in Australia post the 1996 Atlanta Olympics as well as split-time events and a 100m medley added to the program.

Depending on coronavirus developments, the final match in the condensed 2020 series would either be held on the last weekend of the camp or about a month or two later somewhere else in the world.

London among cities to have expressed an interest, with the cusp of Christmas among options on the calendar.


Leigh Nugent, Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett – high achievers in Australia’s golden era. Photo Courtesy: Swimming Australia

The arrival of the world’s best will be a massive boost to the sport of swimming – for so long a poor relation in the world of professional sports in Australia – as swimmers chase Olympic glory every four years.

And it could well signal a major upward trend for swimming with Olympic sports also bracing themselves for Federal government funding cuts and a cloudy future that could see the football codes come back closer to a level financial playing field.

Swimming in Australia will not have seen anything like this boost in popularity since the launch of the pre-Sydney 2000 era when Ian Thorpe, Grant Hackett, Susie O’Neill and Kieren Perkins ruled our golden pond, with the sport featuring on prime time television – as close to live reality TV sport at its best.

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4 years ago

Dressel and Seto also set world records during the first ISL season.

Peter Yates
4 years ago

They’re going to do it at Gloria, Stanford, UT, or IU. Let’s be real

Donna Pim
4 years ago

Chelsie Anne Pim omg defo get me to visit then

Chelsie Anne Pim
4 years ago
Reply to  Donna Pim

Donna Pim yessssss defffinatley

4 years ago
Reply to  Donna Pim

I get the idea of why Gold Coast would be a good pick .. Im sure swimmers like Adam Peaty would vouch for Gold Coast viability as a venue

Two questions / issues though
1. The Gold Coast main pool needs a roof urgently as the pan pacs were adversely affected by rain and it’s no fun sitting in the audience wet n soggy
2. Is Jacco Verhaeren sticking around long enough as I thought his contract finishes after the original Tokyo olympics date

4 years ago
Reply to  Verram

I don’t think they intend to have spectators. It’s proposed to be filmed exclusively for TV.

4 years ago
Reply to  Verram

Makes sense but the pool could still do with a roof… filming the event for tv could be tricky if there’s a down pour of rain and the team mates can’t sit on the sidelines

Lynda Petrie
4 years ago

Rachel Young this is your pool
Isn’t it?

Rachel Young
4 years ago
Reply to  Lynda Petrie

Lynda Petrie yes this is my local pool. Are you coming over for a visit??????? Please!!!!

Jason Stegbauer
4 years ago

How is it possible with the Australian border restrictions???????

Craig Lord
4 years ago

It’s not right now… the tentative date is October-November … as stated by ISL, the plan is the plan; the dates can only be confirmed when we all know more about where the world will be in June, July, August, September etc etc …

Andrew Goetz
4 years ago

Grigorishin s a god send to swimming.

Catriona Hodges
4 years ago

Chelsea Hodges

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