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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Are the Olympics Getting Too Big? Brisbane Pushback Sparks Debate

  • Australian officials move forward with stadium renovations instead of building a new facility.
  • Concerns emerge that the hosts of the 2032 Games will look like ‘cheapskates.’
Brisbane 2032

Are the Olympics becoming too big for any government to truly handle? That long-debated question is getting a fresh airing after new signs of stress have emerged in Brisbane, host of the 2032 Games.

Four months after organizers in Australia detailed a $1.8 billion plan to tear down the 128-year-old Brisbane Cricket Ground (commonly known as the Gabba) and build a new Olympics centerpiece venue; they will instead upgrade Suncorp Stadium, a 90-year-old facility primarily used for rugby and soccer. Track and field competition will be held at the Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre, a 49-year-old venue itself. 

Upgrades at those venues, and planned conversations at some other facilities, will collectively cost a fraction of what a rebuilt Gabba would have. 

“When Queenslanders are struggling with other costs, I cannot justify … a new stadium,” said Steven Miles, Queensland state premier, who, in making the decision, rejected some key findings of an independent review of Brisbane’s infrastructure for the event.

The plan sparked pushback among Olympics advocates, including former Australian medalist sprinter Raelene Boyle. 

“I don’t think it will show the city off that well and Brisbane could look like cheapskates are running the Games,” Boyle told Reuters

Some local media reports in Australia even went further, suggesting that Queensland’s cabinet also discussed the costs of backing out of hosting the 2032 Olympics. Both Miles’s office and the IOC quickly pushed back on that and said they were looking forward to the upcoming Games.

Some History

The political drama unfolding in Brisbane recalls a now oft-forgotten episode from the early 1970s in which Denver won the right to host the ’76 Olympics but then officially withdrew its bid after Colorado voters rejected a referendum to use public dollars for the event. Those Games ultimately went to Innsbruck, Austria, which also hosted in ’64. 

But some Olympics experts suggest the furor in Brisbane is overblown.

“[I] would caution not to get too carried away with the media around local Aussie politics. That is always brutal,” Michael Payne, former IOC marketing director and now a sports industry consultant, posted on X. “The original Gabba plan was not thought through and the debate now on venue[s] should lead to a much better legacy plan. Brisbane and Australia will deliver a great Olympics.”

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