River city: Transport and infrastructure needs for hosting the Olympic Games in southeast Queensland would be the first stage of a feasibility study.
River city: Transport and infrastructure needs for hosting the Olympic Games in southeast Queensland would be the first stage of a feasibility study.

Now, bring on the Olympics!

PETER Beattie has blown hot and cold about southeast Queensland's ability to host the Olympic Games, but he now believes the region "could do it tomorrow''.

In 2005, when he was premier, Beattie firmly put a Brisbane Games back on the agenda when the International Olympic Committee's then-president, Jacques Rogge, was at a seminar in the city. So was the Australian Olympic Committee's supremo - IOC vice-president John Coates.

Then last year Beattie said Brisbane's involvement was a costly "pipe dream'' and he advocated a Gold Coast-Sydney-Melbourne bid to use the sports facilities and public infrastructure of Australia's two most populous cities.

But now he tells Insight the successful delivery of the Commonwealth Games by the Gold Coast organising committee he has chaired, and the knowledge gained by Queenslanders in the process, has led him to rethink his stance.

Transport and infrastructure needs for hosting the Olympic Games in southeast Queensland would be the first stage of a feasibility study.
Transport and infrastructure needs for hosting the Olympic Games in southeast Queensland would be the first stage of a feasibility study.

The next three Games cities have already been decided - Tokyo in 2020, Paris in 2024 and Los Angeles in 2028. With two consecutive northern hemisphere hosts, the IOC would be looking for a southern hemisphere location, although this isn't guaranteed. Africa and South America are considered unlikely for 2032, meaning Australia is a strong option with three decades having passed since Sydney's successful 2000 Games.

But much can change in world and Olympic politics and China, despite Beijing hosting the 2008 Summer Games and upcoming 2022 Games, may throw unmatchable money at a bid, as could Russia and Middle East nations.

Costs of up to $12 billion for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics make many Queenslanders baulk at a local staging. Australian taxpayers paid $5 billion in today's dollars to fund the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Organisers of the 2016 Rio Olympics admitted to a debt of $A45 million.

However, a southeast Queensland Games could "happen tomorrow'', Beattie says, if there was bipartisan agreement at a federal level to underwrite them.

The more modest Commonwealth Games, which close tomorrow night, cost about $1.5 billion, according to Beattie.

"It cost $1.5 billion, but we have to bear in mind that that amount has left a lasting transport legacy, with the light rail and roadworks, and other infrastructure,'' he says.

"The transport worried me, but it has been one of the successes, with 2 million passenger trips (on public transport),'' Beattie says.

The Gold Coast Commonwealth Games cost about $1.5 billion according to Peter Beattie.  Picture: AAP Image/Dave Hunt
The Gold Coast Commonwealth Games cost about $1.5 billion according to Peter Beattie. Picture: AAP Image/Dave Hunt

"Our ticket sales (for the Games) of 1.194 million as of Wednesday show Australians do want to watch these sports. For a 2032 bid, we now have the organisational skills that will now reside on the Gold Coast from these Games.

"If a bid does happen, the Commonwealth would really need to think about whether all the events should really be in the southeast corner or share some.

"You really need a Melbourne Cricket Ground (100,000 capacity) or ANZ Stadium (75,000 in Sydney) or an 80,000 stadium in the southeast to give you more revenue."

Beattie says if Suncorp Stadium was identified as the venue for athletics events and ceremonies, its 52,500 capacity would need to be upgraded, including an oval field suitable for athletics.

If there were to be a new venue in Brisbane, its location would need careful consideration.

A report for the SEQ Council of Mayors, to be delivered in mid-2018, will help the mayors decide whether to make a bid to the International Olympic Committee. But what are the major factors to be considered?

CITY OR THE SOUTHEAST

The International Olympic Committee has always awarded Games to cities, but a spokesman for the Council of Mayors says it's expected that a regional bid would not be viewed as a negative.

The COM believes the focus would be on hosting Olympic events in cities outside Brisbane in the wider southeast region.

The Commonwealth Games Aquatic Centre at Southport, for example, was built with temporary, open stands for 2018, but could be the site of a stadium with a roof for the 2032 Olympic swimming and diving events because there is considerable surrounding space.

The Brisbane CBD skyline at dusk shot from southbank on 9/7/2017. (AAP Image/Marc Robertson).
The Brisbane CBD skyline at dusk shot from southbank on 9/7/2017. (AAP Image/Marc Robertson).

But not everyone agrees with the regional approach. Three-time Olympic silver medallist Raelene Boyle is one Olympian who opposes a southeast Queensland model.

"I would still like to see it centred in one city and not spread around," she says. "The IOC has let it get too big.''

INFRASTRUCTURE

The horror stories of white-elephant facilities and little-used public infrastructure from the 2004 Athens Olympics and the 2016 Rio Games seep into the consciousness of Australians more concerned about funding for hospitals and schools.

A Council of Mayors spokesman says the first stage of the feasibility study will be focused on transport and infrastructure needs for southeast Queensland.

Proposed venue options in the event of an official Brisbane bid for the Olympic Games centred around Victoria Park.
Proposed venue options in the event of an official Brisbane bid for the Olympic Games centred around Victoria Park.

I

n the rejected Beattie-led bid for Brisbane to host the 2011 World Championships in Athletics, the Queensland Sports and Athletics Centre (formerly QEII), with a modest upgrade, was identified. But there are questions over whether the Nathan site would be the right location for Games athletics, in terms of space and existing road access, and the fact that most Olympic cities cluster venues together.

Harvey Lister, the Brisbane-based chairman and chief executive of the international venue-management company AEG Ogden, identifies two inner-north locations as potential hubs of any Olympic Games: the Victoria Park precinct, or above the Bowen Hills railyards and land around them.

"There would be southside alternatives. You do want to limit the travel for athletes and officials, and from venues,'' says Lister, a 40-year veteran of the entertainment, sport, theatre and conventions industry who oversees Suncorp Stadium.

Beattie says Brisbane's Chandler velodrome is world class and could be used for the Olympics.

Opening morning of the Stage 2 of the Gold Coast light rail (g:link). The crowds wait as the light rail tram enters the station at Helensvale. Picture: Jerad Williams
Opening morning of the Stage 2 of the Gold Coast light rail (g:link). The crowds wait as the light rail tram enters the station at Helensvale. Picture: Jerad Williams

 

As for transport, investment in Gold Coast light rail and roads for the 2018 Commonwealth Games will be legacy items, Beattie says.

And what Brisbane needs for its road and public transport infrastructure in the 2030s are front-burner issues in the short term for city planners onto which Games requirements could be welded.

Housing all of the athletes is also a major issue. Beattie says the IOC needs to be realistic about what it expects cities to build for villages housing 10,500 athletes (the total at the Rio Games), plus officials and the media.

When he first championed a Brisbane bid in 2005, Coates says one issue to be addressed was whether there would be enough five-star hotels in the southeast.

Lister, meanwhile, has a left-field suggestion for the Games project to be used to invest in an extra cruise ship terminal between Hamilton and the mouth of the Brisbane River. Athletes and officials could be housed, he says, in two or three hired ships. For example, the world's largest cruise ship, Symphony of the Seas, boasts that it can house 6780 guests and 2100 crew members.

"This idea will be criticised, but those ships are luxurious and City Cats could transport the athletes down the river to a central transport hub for buses to the venues in Brisbane,'' Lister says.

LOCAL POLITICS

All Games bids around the world must be funded, supported and tolerated by all levels of government.

Beattie says a bid would be dead in the water if the federal Coalition and Labor Party leaders did not agree to underwrite the staging of the Games.

Peter Beattie has blown hot and cold about southeast Queensland’s ability to host the Olympic Games, but he now believes the region “could do it tomorrow’’. Picture: AAP Image/Dean Lewins
Peter Beattie has blown hot and cold about southeast Queensland’s ability to host the Olympic Games, but he now believes the region “could do it tomorrow’’. Picture: AAP Image/Dean Lewins

A Games strongman ultimately emerges. In Sydney in the late 1990s, it was Michael Knight, NSW Labor's Olympics minister, who made lots of enemies but cleared a path to what the IOC said at the time was the "greatest Games''.

IOC POLITICS

The canny Coates, who marshalled the numbers for the Sydney bid in 1993, will run hard on making a southeast bid competitive and successful, even though he will be 75 in 2025, when an IOC vote on the 2032 Games is likely to be taken.

For all his experience and contacts, Coates steered home the Sydney bid in 1993 through the IOC by a tight margin of 47-45 over Beijing.

It's a hard road to hoe - just ask the tattered regiment of Australia's $45 million World Cup soccer bid.

IOC Vice President John Coates steered home the Sydney bid in 1993 through the IOC by a tight margin of 47-45 over Beijing. Picture: Buda Mendes/Getty Images
IOC Vice President John Coates steered home the Sydney bid in 1993 through the IOC by a tight margin of 47-45 over Beijing. Picture: Buda Mendes/Getty Images

The only thing that seems to annoy people more than the cost of hosting the Games is the millions of dollars spent by bidding teams in the past as they pile largesse onto the 90-odd voting members of the International Olympic Committee - especially when a bid fails.

But in February, the IOC detailed 118 reforms to the process of bidding for, and hosting, the Olympics.

"By examining the seven-year journey with former organising committees, more than 80 of the 118 solutions that have been proposed would result in cost efficiencies. It's a robust plan that reduces complexity and costs while maximising flexibility,'' says Coates, who declined interviews this week ahead of an upcoming AOC annual general meeting.

PUBLIC SUPPORT

A Courier-Mail poll in August 2016 found that 62 per cent of respondents supported a southeast Queensland bid to host the 2028 Olympics, and the Council of Mayors will keep a finger on the pulse of public opinion this year.

However, in 2015 Melbourne's Chamber of Commerce raised the prospect of bringing the Olympics back to the Victorian capital, which hosted the Games in 1956.

Melbourne has far better sports infrastructure than Brisbane, but Coates said last year that Brisbane's climate made it the only one of Australia's three largest cities suitable for hosting the Games during the IOC's preferred July-August window.

"We concluded that the NRL and AFL grand finals and the Sydney and Melbourne racing carnivals during the September-November period would likely rule out later dates for hosting the Games in those cities,'' Coates said at the time.

Jim Tucker and Robert Craddock



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