The last time Brisbane bid to host the Olympic Games, many locals still referred to the place as “a big country town”.
The Queensland capital’s opponents to host the 1992 games argued the city was too small and unknown. There are few similar doubts this time around, as Brisbane is set to be anointed host of the 2032 Olympics.
Officially, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will vote to approve Brisbane’s bid on Wednesday evening Queensland time, ahead of the start of the delayed Tokyo games. The lord mayor, Adrian Schrinner, told the ABC from Tokyo the city’s bid team was confident “but not taking anything for granted”.
Unofficially, the celebration has already begun. Brisbane is the only city on the IOC ballot and needs a simple majority of IOC support, having already been chosen as the preferred location and entered into “exclusive negotiations” to host. So confident are local leaders of success they have already announced a fireworks display for Wednesday night.
BREAKING: Brisbane’s skyline is ready to light up on Wednesday night as the International Olympics Committee is set to hand down its historic 2032 Games decision. pic.twitter.com/tegR4KP5Mb
— Annastacia Palaszczuk (@AnnastaciaMP) July 19, 2021
The new IOC bid process – and the Covid pandemic – have sucked some of the usual pageantry and drama from the Olympics hosting decision, which in the past has required celebrity endorsement and a complex vote-winning strategy. Australians still remember the former New South Wales premier John Fahey for the way he leapt from his seat when Sydney was announced in 1993 as the host of the 2000 Games.
The new IOC processes have also prized sustainability and long-term planning legacies ahead of promises to build massive stadiums and other new facilities, after venues in previous host cities – such as Athens and Rio de Janeiro – were quickly abandoned.
Brisbane’s main Olympics venue – for the opening ceremony and athletics – would be the redeveloped Brisbane Cricket Ground at Woolloongabba, more commonly known as the Gabba.
The stadium will be redeveloped regardless, having already fallen out of favour to host the opening cricket Test of the Australian summer.
Athletes would be housed in four separate villages – the largest at Albion in Brisbane and others on the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Scenic Rim – that would be used for housing after the games. Venues would be spread across south-east Queensland, in part prompted by the IOC’s encouragement of regional and sub-regional bids.
Most events would be held in existing venues, many of which would be expanded or given temporary renovation.
Lang Park, the home of Queensland’s favourite pastime, rugby league, would host the football competition. The rugby union complex, Ballymore, would be converted to host hockey.
The most significant new venue proposed is the Brisbane Arena, to be located at Roma Street in the CBD. It would host swimming and water polo during the Olympics and in the long term would replace the city’s indoor concert venue, the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.
Brisbane’s bid documents place significant emphasis on the proposed legacy of the Games, including partnerships with First Nations people, developing a “climate positive” Games, achieving a 50% renewable energy target in Queensland by 2030 and promoting the health of the Great Barrier Reef. Climate action remains a fraught discussion in Queensland – the “sunshine state” is also the heart of Australian coalmining.
The proposed Olympics would cost A$6bn (US$4.5bn), but organisers say they would be “cost neutral” – covered by contributions from the IOC, sponsorship revenue, ticket sales, hospitality and merchandising.
All that remains, it seems, is for the IOC to rubber-stamp. Unlike previous host city decisions, many of the delegates have not been able to visit Brisbane, due to pandemic restrictions.
“We’ve done everything that we possibly can remotely with Zoom meetings and video presentations,” Shrinner said. “Now [before the vote] is our opportunity to get to know [the delegates] to look them in the eye and let them know that we’re up for this.
“It is Brisbane’s time to shine, it’s Queensland’s time to shine now and our city and our state has come such a long way since previous bids for the Olympics. Brisbane is a different city to what it was 30 years ago, it’s more mature and modern.”
Natalie Cook, a beach volleyball gold medallist from the Sydney Olympics and the president of the Queensland Olympic Council, told AFP she travelled the world and people would often ask: “Where’s Brisbane?
“And you have to get out the map and show them it’s an hour north by plane of Sydney.
“That’s going to change. And that is so exciting.”