The 2032 Olympics will catapult south-east Queensland onto the world stage, but there’s a long way to go before the region will be ready to meet the demands of hosting the Games.
Organisers have pitched the sporting spectacle as a more sustainable and cost-effective event that will leave a meaningful legacy for the growing region.
“You literally couldn’t buy the type of name recognition that the Olympics would bring to a city,” Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner told the ABC.
Over the next 11 years, authorities will pour major resources and money into transforming Brisbane into a new world city — though the full cost is still unclear.
The 2032 Olympic master plan includes three main hubs in the state’s south-east corner, which will host 28 sports split across them.
There will be 21 venues in Brisbane, seven on the Gold Coast and four on the Sunshine Coast.
Football preliminary matches will also be played in Cairns, Townsville, Toowoomba, Sydney and Melbourne.
The Gabba will be the jewel in Brisbane’s Olympic crown, hosting the athletics as well as the opening and closing ceremonies.
The stadium is due for a $1 billion rebuild that will increase its capacity to 50,000 spectators.
As part of its ‘New Norm’, the International Olympic Committee has scrapped costly old rules requiring sports to have their own purpose-built facilities.
Cr Schrinner said it meant 84 per cent of venues for the 2032 Games would be existing, refurbished or temporary.
“This is not so much about building new facilities or stadiums or sporting arenas — it’s about trying to use what we’ve got or upgrade what we’ve got,” he said.
“We have seen other cities just throwing endless amounts of money at the Olympics — that’s not the way we’ve pitched it for Brisbane.”
But there are some major new venues in the pipeline, including a 15,000-seat aquatic centre in the Brisbane CBD, to host swimming and water polo.
The master plan also includes a new 12,000-seat indoor basketball facility, a 10,000-seat gymnastics venue and a boxing centre at Moreton Bay.
The main athletes’ village will be built on prime Brisbane waterfront real estate at Hamilton, with smaller accommodation options on the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Kooralbyn, near the rowing venue.
There is a long history of cost blowouts for Olympic host cities, but organisers of the Brisbane Games said the anticipated $4.5 billion operating budget will be “cost neutral”.
However, University of Queensland tourism and events expert Judith Mair said infrastructure expenses were excluded from those projections.
“The problem with that budget is that doesn’t include the public transport or the new road infrastructure … it doesn’t include the cost of security, it doesn’t include the cost of the staff who’ll be working in the organising committee,” Dr Mair said.
Cr Schrinner said those costs would be worked through in the coming years and was confident Brisbane would not repeat the mistakes of past Olympics.
“One of the things in other [host] cities that often creates cost pressure is an accelerated timeframe,” he said. “We have 11 years to prepare for the Games and to be ready — that’s a really strong position to be in.”
When asked on ABC Radio Brisbane what extra costs there would be, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said “that’ll be worked out”.
“But it’s actually part of our ongoing infrastructure budget anyway, which is over $50 billion over the four years,” she said.
“So we will pull out some of those things that are absolutely critical, and make sure they’re done in that 12-year horizon.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison the Commonwealth and Queensland governments would work together to share both the costs and the decisions around the Games.
He said it was estimated the event would bring in almost $18 billion in economic and social benefits for the country.
“As someone from Sydney I know how important it was to Sydney 20 years ago, more than that now,” Mr Morrison said.
“Once you’re an Olympic city, you’re an Olympic city, you’re on the international map.
“The way this bid has been put together and the way we’ve worked together is we’re substantively using planned and existing infrastructure and infrastructure that south-east Queensland, and more broadly across the state, people are going to need.
“That was a key part of the bid that they understood these are things we needed to build.”
South-east Queensland is forecast to grow by 1.5 million people by 2041 and transport infrastructure is already feeling the pinch.
Come the 2032 Games, major projects like Cross River Rail, Brisbane Metro and the Coomera Connector will already be up and running.
But Cr Shrinner acknowledges more public transport will be needed to link venues and spectators.
“In the end, the first reason that we went for the Olympics was to get better infrastructure and better transport infrastructure in particular,” he said.
“There will need to be continuous transport and road upgrades between now and 2032 … and we’ll need all three levels of government to chip in.
“It’s needed for our growing population, not just for the Olympics.”
Dr Mair said locals could expect to see projects accelerated in the lead up to the Games.
“Infrastructure improvements, road transport improvements, public transport improvements that might have been in the 30-year plan for the city can be brought forward so they’re ready in time for the Olympics,” she said. “Although there are already plans in place to duplicate the M1 down to the Gold Coast, I think something similar may have to be thought of going up to the Sunshine Coast too.”
For local sporting groups, the promise of new Olympic venues is a dream come true.
Brisbane’s venue master plan includes a new whitewater centre at the Redlands to host the fast-paced sport of canoe slalom.
Scott Sharples from Paddle Queensland said it would be fantastic for the development of home-grown athletes who have little to no way to enjoy their sport locally.
“For the sport of paddling in Queensland, it’s a game-changer,” Mr Sharples said. “The only other facility to that standard is in Penrith. We see this opportunity as a great way to get more families and junior athletes in the sport to be those future Olympians and podium athletes come 2032.”