Home Australia The battle for the future of the Olympic Games is being fought in Brisbane and it is about more than just stadiums

The battle for the future of the Olympic Games is being fought in Brisbane and it is about more than just stadiums

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the gabba stadium

Forget the debate over whether Brisbane’s Olympic stadiums plan is good for the river city, international experts say the 2032 Games are shaping up to be a test case for the future of the Olympic movement.

“I think a lot of people will be watching very closely,” Professor Andrew Zimbalist, an American sports economist, said at 7.30am.

“Over the last 10 or 15 years, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has had difficulty attracting host cities.”

Martin Müller, a professor of Geography and Sustainability at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, who has done calculations for recent Olympic Games and Soccer World Cups, agrees.

Their studies have found that of the World Cups and Olympic Games held between 1964 and 2018, four out of five ran a deficit, with an average return on investment of -38 percent.

Plans to demolish and rebuild the Gabba for the Olympic Games were scrapped.(ABC News: Christopher Gillette)

“[For the IOC] It’s almost a matter of life and death,” said Professor Müller about the sustainability of the Games.

Queensland won the rights to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2021 through a reformed process called the “new norm”, with an emphasis on moderation, sustainability and using as many existing venues as possible.

But organizers have since been caught up in a political dispute over a $3 billion plan to demolish and rebuild Brisbane’s Gabba stadium.

The stadium plan changed

Australian Olympic Committee President John Coates speaks to the media in 2020.

IOC Vice President John Coates opposed the reconstruction of the Gabba.(Getty Images: Cameron Spencer)

The IOC intervened in February, with IOC vice-president John Coates arguing that the Gabba plans should be abandoned and organizers should look at less expensive options to upgrade other stadiums.

Queensland Premier Steven Miles last month accepted the IOC proposal and rejected the advice of his own report to build a new stadium across the Brisbane River in Victoria Park.

The person who produced that report, former Brisbane mayor Graham Quirk, said he understood why the IOC vice-president became involved.

Prime Minister Steven Miles

Queensland Premier Steven Miles said he was concerned about big spending as many Queenslanders struggled with cost of living pressures.

“[Mr Coates] “He was very concerned and expressed this to me, that the Olympic brand was being damaged by public debate… and he was going to do whatever it took to protect it,” Quirk told ABC’s Stateline.

Professor Müller says that the IOC must look after their interests.

“They are selling the international reputation of the Games to sponsors, fans and television viewers, and they have had bad experiences in the last two Games, so what they want to do is reduce the risk,” he said. .

He says the last Summer Games where revenue was greater than the total cost of hosting the event was Sydney in 2000.

Cathy Freeman smiling with the Aboriginal and Australian flag around her neck.

Cathy Freeman provided the iconic images of the successful Sydney Olympic Games in 2000.(Getty: Nick Wilson/All Sports)

“It’s been quite a while, which tells you something about how high or low the chances are of those games being profitable.”

‘The IOC will be watching’

A fenced running track with forest at the edge of the field

The Queensland Sports and Athletics Center will receive a $1.6 billion upgrade.(ABC News: Dean Caton)

Professor Zimbalist, who documented past Olympic scandals in his 2016 book Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup, said he was not surprised by the IOC’s intervention.

“Hosting the Olympic Games creates fiscal deficits of between $10 billion and $30 billion, and more and more cities are realizing this,” he said.

“[The Brisbane Games] “They have a demonstration value that I think the IOC will be attentive to.”

Organizers will now spend about $1.6 million to redevelop the Queensland Sports and Athletics Center in Nathan, 13km south of the CBD, to host the 2032 athletics events.

And it will use Brisbane’s Lang Park for the opening and closing ceremonies.

Although the revised stadium plans have been welcomed by Athletics Australia, they have not pleased everyone.

Sally Pearson on a running track holding the Australian flag above her head.

Sally Pearson is one of the big Australian stars who has questioned the proposed venues for the Brisbane Olympics.(Reuters: John Sibley)

A group of 14 Queensland Olympians, including Leisel Jones, Sally Pearson and Grant Hackett, signed an open letter this month criticizing the scaled-down stadium plans, describing them as a “disgrace”.

Quirk says Brisbane will still need to build a new stadium in the near future, citing a report from Stadiums Queensland that claims the 42,000-capacity Gabba “will reach the end of its useful life around 2030”.

Will the ‘new norm’ work?

A statue of an athlete in front of Suncorp Stadium.

The opening and closing ceremonies will now take place at Lang Park.(ABC News: Chris Gillette)

Professor Zimbalist says it is not yet known whether this “new norm” for the Olympic Games will be successful.

“It’s going to be very difficult and very challenging to do this and make it pay off fiscally, economically and environmentally,” he said at 7:30.

“But there is more opportunity to reduce the adverse, unpleasant and unwanted aspects and results that have affected other Olympic cities.”

Professor Müller says that the success of the “new norm” will ultimately be determined by the 2032 organizers.

An aerial graphic representation of a remodeled Gabba stadium.

An artist’s impression of what the renovated Gabba would have looked like.(Supplied: Queensland Government)

“The IOC gives Queensland quite a bit of flexibility on how much to invest and what to invest,” he said.

“But one of the trends in the Olympics is that you think you win a prize, but it turns out you overestimated the benefits and underestimated the costs.

“I think Queensland is following the same path that almost all Olympic hosts have followed.”

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