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Brisbane has all but secured the Olympic victory it first tried for 29 years ago, but that goal will now trigger a debate about the infrastructure south-east Queensland needs to host the world’s biggest sporting event.
While proposals such as a fast rail line connecting the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane and Gold Coast have been around a long time and could play part of the South East Queensland City Deal that is still under negotiation, the 2032 announcement will bring debates about them to a head.
Securing his Queensland Olympic plan after 36 years: AOC president John Coates with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Thursday. Getty Images
The new ethos around hosting Olympic Games is to avoid costly white elephants, and the Brisbane bid documents emphasise the use of transport infrastructure already in place, boosting it with higher frequency services and extra rolling stock as necessary.
The region’s mayors, however, want the infrastructure boost they say is crucial to serve the fast-growing population of their region.
“The organising committee is saying delivering the Games isn’t contingent on a faster rail network,” said Chris Mountford, the Queensland executive director of the Property Council of Australia.
“But when you take the Council of Mayors’ view, the idea of greater connectivity is almost the backbone of going for the Olympics. This has always been about a bid being an opportunity to fast-track the infrastructure south-east Queensland needs.”
Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates, who on Thursday locked in the sporting event he first tried to win for Brisbane in 1992 – but which went to Barcelona – also said the city’s advancement to exclusive negotiations with the International Olympic Committee meant infrastructure decisions were necessary.
“It’s not required for running the Games, but what the three levels of government would like to use this opportunity to do is work out what funding might come Queensland’s way … in the post-COVID infrastructure funding that is expected,” Mr Coates told The Australian Financial Review.
“It’s not required for a successful Games but would certainly help a great deal if the transport corridors, for example, are improved.”
Hosting the tournaments will give a huge boost to the Queensland economy, with (pre-pandemic) bid documents predicting the $4.5 billion event will create 130,000 direct jobs and boost international visitor expenditure by more than $20 billion between 2020 and 2036.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who told State Parliament on Thursday that 90 per cent of the necessary infrastructure to hold the event was already in place, said “a new golden age” was beginning at a crucial time for the state.
“Now that we are starting our economic recovery it’s even more important that we do all we can to stimulate investment and create jobs,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“That is something the 2032 Queensland Olympics can achieve.”
While Mr Coates’ understanding of the bid process – held for the first time with the 2032 Games and under a system of which he was a key architect – might have made it easier for the bidding team to push ahead faster than rival candidates, the decisions on infrastructure and spending now facing the putative hosts will be just as hard.
This decision might struggle to shake questions about transparency, given Mr Coates’ deep knowledge about the process.
Since 2017, Mr Coates has headed the IOC’s Agenda 2020/New Norm committee, overseeing major overhauls to make host city candidacy less costly and to strip out the risks of corruption that came from having the IOC’s own executive board members vote for host cities.
The IOC is certainly keen to dispel any perception that a bid he led was advantaged.
“Mr Coates has not taken part in any kind of discussion of the IOC executive board concerning the reports of the future host commission or related directly or indirectly to the Olympic Games 2032,” Kristin Kloster Aasen, the Future Host Commission chairwoman, said.
“And all this is supervised by our compliance department, who at the beginning of every meeting is clearly explaining which member of the IOC executive board is conflicted with regard to different interests and is therefore excluded from the concerning discussions.”
Brisbane’s role as 2032 host has not yet been confirmed, a point Mr Coates emphasised on Thursday.
“Just because you’re the first mover, it doesn’t mean that a bid’s going to pass muster,” he said.
”I’m a key driver, as a member of the IOC executive board, of Agenda 2020, from which all of this flowed. Making the Games sustainable, taking the cost of bidding out, I’m a key driver of the savings that are being made in Tokyo.
”My legacy in that regard, or my role in that regard, is benefiting every city that hosts the Games, not just Brisbane. Absolutely, if I’ve got the experience and I can help in that regard, it’s going to be to everyone’s benefit.”
This article first appeared on www.afr.com
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