An international sports economist says the devil is in the detail as to whether Queensland’s 2032 Summer Olympics bid will deliver the promised economic benefits.
- Queensland is the frontrunner for the 2032 Games, with the International Olympic Committee saying it is the “preferred host candidate”
- Brisbane Mayor Adrian Schrinner says the Games would provide “a decade-long confidence boost to our region”
- A study of the 2018 Commonwealth Games found many businesses on the Gold Coast were negatively impacted
“Although they call it a Brisbane cluster, it’s not really a cluster. The venues are all over the place,” Andrew Zimbalist, from Smith College in Massachusetts, told 7.30.
“That means you have to build connecting transportation, and whether you do that in ways that are beneficial to the city’s needs or are just beneficial to the need to connect venues is an important question.”
The author of Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup, Professor Zimbalist said it was too early to make a definitive assessment about the bid.
“They’ve really just provided bare outlines of what they hope to do,” he said.
“But I think as a general principle, the IOC [International Olympic Committee] needs the host city more than the host city needs the IOC.”
‘A decade-long confidence boost to our region’
Queensland has been the frontrunner to host the 2032 games since February, when the IOC executive board decided the state was the “preferred host candidate” under new rules designed to stop expensive bidding campaigns.
The Queensland bidding committee released a plan for the Games to be based around three hubs — Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast — with 80 per cent of the venues already built.
“Because we’re not building everything brand new and shiny, because we’re not in this very expensive bidding process, because we’re spreading it over an entire region rather than concentrating it in one city all in one small area, those factors mean it’s a very different type of Olympics,” Brisbane Lord Mayor and bid committee member Adrian Schrinner said.
“If we get the Games, that will mean a decade-long confidence boost to our region and that will have a long tail as well.”
Some of the existing venues would need to be expanded or renovated, but Mr Schrinner said it was “a relatively small gap in the scheme of things”.
The Queensland bid originally proposed to build a new 50,000-seat Olympic stadium. However a billion-dollar upgrade of Brisbane’s Gabba stadium has now been decided on.
‘Home crowd would be amazing’
The plans also foreshadow the construction of a new 10,000-seat gymnastics centre in Brisbane, which is welcome news to Chris Rushton from Gymnastic Queensland.
“I think there’s an opportunity to look at the design of the facility and how we can ensure it can cater for the Games — but also, post that, the legacy,” he said.
Gymnast and 2032 Olympic hopeful James Hardy is excited.
“The home crowd would just be amazing. I’ve never experienced anything like that,” he told 7.30.
But if the 2018 Commonwealth Games is any guide, local businesses cannot automatically expect a windfall.
“Too many people left the city … it emptied out, it became a ghost town,” said former Gold Coast restaurateur Carlo Percuoco, who was eventually forced to close his business when COVID-19 hit.
A Griffith School of Business study found widespread disappointment about the Commonwealth Games.
“We sent out surveys all over the Gold Coast and what we found was that it was actually fairly consistent: Businesses all over the Gold Coast were negatively impacted,” the school’s Joan Carlini said.
Councillor Schrinner said there were lessons to be learned.
“A lot of people thought, ‘I’m going to leave the Gold Coast while this big event is happening.’ That’s not the intent here. We want people in south-east Queensland to be part of the Games,” he said.
‘Not talking small potatoes here’
Professor Zimbalist said it was not unusual for local businesses to suffer during an Olympics or World Cup, because visitors to mega-sports events did not behave like normal tourists.
And he said even though Queensland was doing many of the right things – with a focus on sustainability and not trying to fit everything into one city — there were always risks.
“There’s always the possibility of an unfavourable and unpredictable event that creates a bad image rather than a good image,” he said.
Queensland reckons it can deliver the games for around $4 billion — roughly a quarter of the cost of the past two summer games.
But Professor Zimbalist said it remained to be seen whether that would be achieved.
“The average cost overruns since 1980 in the summer Olympics was 250 per cent,” he said.
“We’re not talking about small potatoes here.”
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