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Wheels within wheels: Venues a balancing act of Olympic proportions

Insights

For all the fanfare and no-questions-asked front page treatment of the Palaszczuk Government’s announcement of a redeveloped Gabba as the major venue for the planned 2032 Olympics, there are some issues which deserve sober analysis.

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The first issue is that The Gabba did not figure much at all in the International Olympic Committee’s own feasibility assessment of the 2032 Games bid.

Indeed, the IOC specifically mentioned Carrara stadium on the Gold Coast as an alternative to building a new venue to stage the athletics, with The Gabba only mentioned as perhaps a possible site for the opening and closing ceremonies.

The assessment stressed the attractiveness of a “polycentric concept” for staging the Olympics across three main clusters – Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast – with the Gold Coast to also host one of two athletes’ villages.

When presented with the original venue masterplan which identified a new 50,000 seat stadium at Albion, the IOC suggested Carrara should be considered instead.

It also seemed to favour using the existing Gold Coast Aquatic Centre at Southport for the swimming events over any new Brisbane arena.

The IOC’s thinking in compiling the feasibility assessment for the 2032 bid has obviously been influenced by the staging of the 2018 Commonwealth Games and which venues were used for that event.

Why reinvent the wheel, it seemed to be asking.

Well, the Government has gone down the reinvention track, with a reimagined Gabba and public plaza and the proposed new Brisbane Live area at Roma St set to host the two major Olympic sports – athletics and swimming.

The Government is gambling that while the IOC might have passed on a tired old Gabba as a suitable Olympic venue, a thrilling new Gabba might be a “whole new ball game”.

Interestingly, the Government’s enthusiasm for what the Games may bring to Brisbane has focussed on two venues that would just so happen to bookend the $5.4 billion Cross River Rail project.

An added bonus for the Government out of all this may well be putting paid to any lingering criticism about that piece of infrastructure not stacking up economically. Labor governments have a habit of  presiding over big cost over-runs for megaprojects like Cross River Rail. The Grattan Institute among others has said the project’s true cost is more like $6.9 billion.

The second issue that deserves some scrutiny is the role the Federal Government needs to play in ensuring the Brisbane Olympics bid is successful.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has been at pains to remind us that Canberra needed to play its part in helping to fund the construction of venues and other commitments needed to assure the IOC.

Clearly, she would like a bit more vocal support coming from the Prime Minister. He is running out of time to do it.

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