It’s official – the Olympics are coming back Down Under.
Brisbane has been confirmed as the host city for the 2032 Games after a vote of the 87 International Olympic Committee members on Wednesday afternoon.
The Queensland capital was a raging favourite to win hosting rights after the IOC anointed it as the preferred bidder earlier this year, and has now been given the green light.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk jumped out of her seat in celebration and Prime Minister Scott Morrison was standing up and punching the air in his office back home, wearing a wide smile.
The South East Queensland delegation made its final pitch – which included presentations by Australian Olympic Committee President John Coates, Morrison and Palaszczuk – shortly before the vote.
Palaszczuk spruiked Queensland’s infrastructure, sporting spirit, long-term strategic planning and financial capabilities as reasons why Brisbane was the best choice as host. She invoked Ash Barty’s recent Wimbledon win and talked about how “sport unites us and provides a pathway to acceptance”, before boasting “Queensland has the nation’s biggest share of swimming pools” and raving about the weather in the Sunshine State.
Palaszczuk said it was “an honour to represent Queensland everyday but especially today” as she talked up her state, but one line stood out.
“We are seeing how sport unites us in the co-operation of all levels of government and all sides of politics working together to achieve this Olympic dream,” she said.
Finding a way out of a pandemic isn’t enough to build bridges between all areas of government, but Olympics hosting rights are.
When the floor was opened up to questions from IOC members, the Queensland delegation was asked about its commitment to putting on “climate positive Games” — which members agreed was an admirable goal to strive for.
Morrison, who made his pre-recorded contribution to the presentation remotely from Australia, has been slammed for his government’s lack of action on climate change. Yet one of the selling points of the very bid he was backing was its commitment to sustainability — a point raised by another member later in the question and answer session.
The increasing hesitancy from cities around the world to host such an expensive mega-event will show how big a gamble the Brisbane bid is taking when the Tokyo Olympics begin with events mainly take place in empty stadiums to the sound of recorded crowd noises, starting with the opening ceremony on Friday night in the 68,000-capacity Olympic Stadium.
Recent Olympics have been hit by controversy, cost blowouts and coronavirus chaos but the residents of Brisbane look ready to welcome the event with open arms.
In other cities, a bid to host an event of such magnitude might prompt demonstrations, or at the very least vigorous public debate. Yet residents of Brisbane have greeted the news with enthusiasm.
Qatar had also been in the running to host the 2032 Olympics and there was a long-shot joint bid between South and North Korea.
Australia has already hosted the Olympics twice, in Melbourne in 1956 and Sydney in 2000, widely considered one of the most successful Games in recent history.
Venues for the Brisbane Olympics would be spread across Brisbane, Gold Coast — which hosted the 2018 Commonwealth Games — and Sunshine Coast.
There are hopes the Olympics would boost Brisbane’s international profile, making it more attractive to tourists who tend to use it as a jumping-off point for attractions like the Great Barrier Reef.
With about 85 per cent of venues already built in and around Brisbane, Australia is hoping these changes will keep costs down. The city projects an operating budget of $AUD4.5 billion (US$3.4 billion) — compared to US$15.4 billion for the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Games.
The IOC is chipping in $AUD2.5 billion, and with ticket sales and sponsorship expected to cover the rest, Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates has predicted the event would break even.