Australia

Brisbane’s celebration is why we love the Olympics

The biggest surprise in Brisbane being named host of the 2032 Games came from an embargoed press release from Tokyo 2020 congratulating the bid team for winning, despite the International Olympic Committee not yet having conducted the vote.

“The International Olympic Committee (IOC) today elected Brisbane as the host city of the Summer Games of the XXXV Olympiad 2032,” the release said.

“My heartfelt congratulations go to the people of Brisbane and Australia,” the president of Tokyo’s organising committee, Seiko Hashimoto, said.

Twenty minutes later the vote began.

In the end it was a relatively quick process, taking only 10 minutes before IOC president Thomas Bach unsurprisingly announced, “The International Olympic Committee has the honour to announce that the Games of the 35th Olympiad are awarded to Brisbane, Australia”.

There was the obligatory leap out of the seats from the bid team — Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Lord Mayor of Brisbane Adrian Schrinner, Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) president John Coates and Federal Sports Minister, Richard Colbeck.

The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, offered two thumbs up as he was beamed onto the big screen from his Parliament House office.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.
IOC president Thomas Bach confirms Brisbane will host the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games

Technically, it might have been possible for Brisbane to lose if enough IOC members voted no, but in reality Brisbane had it sewn up months ago, beating the competition with a better game strategy that had Australia turning the final bend while the rest were still ambling down the back straight.

Coates can be thanked for that.

He understood the new bid process more than any other, after all, it was a process he helped devise.

As part of the ‘new norm’ the IOC says it wants Games that are socially, environmentally and economically sustainable – in other words, white elephant venues should be a thing of the past.

John Coates, with Annastacia Palaszczuk behind him, speaking to media in Brisbane.
Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates has been a major force behind Brisbane’s bid.(

AAP: Darren England

)

Before the vote took place IOC members were offered the chance to ask final questions of the bid team.

Former Hungarian president and two-time Olympic fencing champion, Pal Schmitt, asked how the impressive promises made by Brisbane 2032 could be guaranteed so far in advance because, “politics is politics”.

To which Bach replied: “And there speaks a man of experience”.

Schmitt was forced to resign as president of Hungary in 2012 after an academic misconduct controversy.

Jokes aside, when it comes to the biggest show on Earth there will naturally be big politics but today was an example of how politics can get it right – left and right, working together, delivering on a bid that had its genesis in 2015.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Brisbane Mayor Adrian Schrinner and AOC's John Coates wave at the 2032 Olympic vote.
Annastacia Palaszczuk, Adrian Schrinner and John Coates celebrate after the Tokyo announcement.(

Getty Images: Toru Hanai

)

It is an incredible achievement that a city the size of Brisbane should be afforded the right to host an Olympic Games, and a country as small as Australia will now host its third behind Melbourne in 1956 and Sydney in 2000.

Premier Palaszczuk said it best, “There’s Tokyo, there’s Paris, there’s LA … and there’s Brisbane”.

Minister Colbeck, couldn’t stress enough, “it’s a big deal … it’s a big, big deal”.

Even the wiley old dog Coates admitted to having “a few nerves”.

A crowd stands on the banks of the Brisbane River as fireworks go off.
Brisbane River erupted in a celebratory fireworks display as the announcement was made.(

AAP: Jason O’Brien

)

Olympic rowing champion, James Tomkins, said the hard work and commitment that went into the bid was equal to the “preparation of an elite athlete … no stone was left unturned”.

While the officials were genuine when speaking of pride, passion, and being a “Queenslander”, nothing they said could match the sheer joy of those who had gathered outdoors on a winter night to hear the announcement.

Their spontaneous celebrations were enough to make the most hardened critics soften just a little.

Their reaction speaks to why there is still life in the Olympic Games, why people do still care, and why the human condition seeks moments like these to celebrate.

And yet, as one of the most challenging Games in history gets underway in Japan, devoid of crowds and atmosphere, there was an element of great sadness and tragedy that it was Tokyo that offered congratulations first at a time when it is they who should be celebrating their moment in the sun.


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