Going for Gold – Brisbane’s Run Up to the Olympics

Premier of Queensland, The Honourable Annastacia Palaszczuk MP rejoices as the President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, announces Brisbane will host the 2032 Olympic Games. Image is courtesy of Seven News.

David Farah

Director – Queensland
BG&E Brisbane
In 2032, when the Olympic and Paralympic Games are deployed in Brisbane, Queensland (QLD) it will be the 32nd modern Games, since Athens in 1896. The Games have only been held in seven countries more than once and soon Australia will sit alongside the United Kingdom and France, having hosted three Games.

The United States wins gold having hosted five Games, while Japan, Greece and Germany, share a bronze medal, for hosting two Games each.

This trivia helps to illustrate Australia’s love affair with the Games – an affair that will be rekindled over the next 11 years in the run-up to the Games in 2032.While the announcement of Brisbane hosting the Games was received from Tokyo, by a COVID-19-afflicted nation, celebrations were had, and the Premier of QLD, The Honourable Annastacia Palaszczuk MP, promptly broadened her portfolio and title to include, Minister for the Olympics, in early October 2021.

Reflecting on the Games that were held in Sydney and Melbourne, as indicators for momentum building, there is no doubt that South East QLD (SEQ) is about to shift gears in readiness for being a great host city.

Brisbane will be the first host city to leverage the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) new rules, ‘The New Norm’, which encourages greater flexibility to deliver a Games that utilises existing infrastructure and are more cost effective.

Venues will be spread across three key areas of SEQ including, 21 venues in Brisbane, seven venues on the Gold Coast (the fact that it hosted the 2018 Commonwealth Games is a major plus), and four venues on the Sunshine Coast. The QLD Government’s ‘Value Proposition Assessment Report’ estimates 80 per cent of venues are already built or will be temporary, with Brisbane icons such as the Gabba being refurbished.

The pending Olympics is timely, considering Brisbane is undergoing a massive infrastructure boom, with $50 billion earmarked for the next four years, reflecting the Federal and State governments policy response to the COVID-19 recession. Historically low interest rates is making debt available and inexpensive, and recognition that a productive State needs improved infrastructure, is also fuelling confidence.

Some sites, such as the Northshore Hamilton Priority Development Area, which is located eight kilometres from Brisbane’s central business district (CBD), will be transformed as part of an integral long-term plan to rejuvenate existing industrial land and will serve as the Olympic Village. Post-Games, Northshore Hamilton will be repurposed to provide a diverse range of residential offerings, including aged care facilities, social and affordable housing, key worker hotels and build-to-rent accommodation.

Transport needs for a region hosting such a massive event will see major infrastructure projects fast-tracked. For example, the proposed Brisbane Live Arena, an 18,000-seat entertainment complex, will be constructed above the Roma Street Station (a key CBD rail and bus transit hub), while the iconic Cross River Rail project which is already in the delivery phase will also be ramped up.

Decentralising Games’ venues across SEQ will provide an incentive to also rapidly deploy the proposed transport links between the urban centres of Brisbane, Ipswich/Springfield, the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Toowoomba. It’s worth noting that by 2032, major projects such as the Cross River Rail, Brisbane Metro and the Coomera Connector will have been delivered.

From a macro perspective, a comprehensive report by KPMG examined the preliminary economic, social and environmental analysis of the Games and concluded: [1]

  • economic and social benefits are estimated to be up to $8.10 billion for QLD and $17.61 billion nationally;
  • the Games’ estimated new expenditure is projected to create approximately 122,900 full-time jobs nationally and about 91,600 in the State, over 20 years;
  • economic benefits for QLD from a Games-induced uplift in international tourism and trade is estimated to be $4.60 billion; and
  • social benefits for the State is estimated to be up to $3.50 billion. These include residential, health, volunteering, enhanced civic pride and social cohesion, and proposals to minimise the Games’ environmental impact.

Detailed as the KPMG report is, the numbers are estimates and there is a long history of cost blow-outs for host cities around the world. Although the 2032 Games’ organisers insist the anticipated $4.5 billion operating budget will be “cost neutral”. Associate Professor Judith Mair is the Discipline Leader of Tourism at the University of QLD’s Business School and suggests that figure excludes infrastructure, staff costs and security.

Former mayors of Olympic cities have made similar optimistic declarations only to encounter cost overruns. Professor John Quiggin, from the University of QLD’s School of Economics, research economist and commentator, sagely reminds us, “In economic terms, the outcomes of major sporting events involving large government spending have generally been poor, despite optimistic projections that are often made for such events.”

Those cautioning about the Games proving a windfall event, point to Sydney-post 2000 Games. Infrastructure was under-used and there was little tourism upsurge, despite the ‘Harbour City’ being on the world stage for two weeks.

With 20 years of hindsight, the benefits of hosting a Games has been reassessed and it’s apparent that the Games delivers some important long-term gains. It framed Sydney as a competitive city, during a period of rapid global integration, and was a well-timed advertisement for the city’s ability to host large-scale events very successfully, which increased investor confidence and attracted other events. It also prompted an environmental clean-up, with more than $130 million spent on remediating pollution that was spread across 400 hectares.

In 1988, an emerging Brisbane hosted Expo 88, which ran for six months and attracted 16 million visitors – which was nearly equal to Australia’s population at that time. The city transformed the 17-hectare South Bank Parklands, among other sites, and announced it was Australia’s third largest city to the world. Winning the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games is proof the world was listening and is getting ready to explore the bigger and better SEQ.

David Farah, Executive Director and Director – QLD at BG&E says, “Hosting the Games provides an opportunity for SEQ to shine, an opportunity for vital infrastructure to be implemented as well as to leverage some of the region’s sporting credentials from the previous Commonwealth Games. I look forward to continuing to play our part in making Brisbane and the surrounding region, more connected and globally competitive, and ready to serve as great host city for the 2032 Games.”

BG&E has contributed/is contributing to several key projects in SEQ, including:

  • Coomera Connector – Stage 1 North;
  • Cross River Rail;
  • Ipswich Motorway – Rocklea-to-Darra Stage 1 (Granard Road-to-Oxley Road);
  • Pacific Motorway (M1) – Pimpama Interchange Exit 49 Upgrade, and
  • Mount Lindesay Highway – Stoney Camp Road-to-Chambers Flat Road Upgrade.

[1]KPMG – Report Examining the Preliminary Economic, Social and Environment Analysis Of The Games, 2020.

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