Golden opportunity

An image of Olympic hero Susie O'Neill and Paralympic champion Lakeisha Patterson overlaid on an image of Brisbane city.

Images: David Madison/Dan Mullan/Getty Images/Matt Murray/Adobe Stock

Images: David Madison/Dan Mullan/Getty Images/Matt Murray/Adobe Stock

How will hosting the Olympic Games in 2032 benefit Brisbane?

Brisbane is in the box seat to host 2032 Summer Olympic Games after the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) Future Host Summer Commission designated the Queensland capital as the preferred candidate city.

Under the IOC’s revamped selection process, it is seen as the first major step towards the bid being rubber stamped as Brisbane follows in the footsteps of Melbourne and Sydney to become an Olympic host city.

While it’s not a done deal yet, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the prospect of an Olympics in Brisbane would be a “game-changer” in terms of putting the city on the international map, as the state emerges from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the coming years.

The news is also exciting for our future sporting heroes, with Australian athletes historically achieving their best results at Olympic events on home soil.

A number of UQ experts have played a role in Brisbane’s 2032 Olympics bid, contributing to a proposal submission to the Queensland Government, along with KPMG.

UQ’s student and alumni community is also home to several champion Olympians and Paralympians, including Susie O’Neill and Lakeisha Patterson, who have experienced the thrill of a home Games at such an elite level first-hand.

Contact caught up with UQ Olympic experts about how hosting the Games in 2032 will benefit Brisbane's economy, tourism industry, transport and infrastructure, as well as how it will benefit Australia's future athletes.

Athletic performance

An image of Susie O'Neill swimming the butterfly during the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

Image: Nick Wilson/ALLSPORT/Getty Images

Image: Nick Wilson/ALLSPORT/Getty Images

An image of Susie O'Neill

Image: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

Image: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

Susie O’Neill OAM

1996, 2000 Olympic gold medallist
Doctor of Philosophy
honoris causa, The University of Queensland (2000)

Athletes from host cities receive a lot of focus in the lead-up to an Olympic Games, which means you get a lot of companies and sponsors wanting to be involved in sport. Athletes can then devote a lot more time to their training, as they have the resources and money around them. Setting the goal of competing at an Olympic Games in your home country is also really beneficial. I remember heading into the Sydney Olympics; it was very easy to motivate myself at training when I had that to look forward to. Very few athletes get the opportunity to compete at a home Olympics – I’ve been one of those lucky people, and it was so exciting to perform in front of a home crowd. It was nerve-racking, but so special. Being a high-profile athlete during the Sydney Olympics, I certainly felt a bit more pressure. Someone told me pressure is a privilege, and it was nice that so many people wanted me to do really well, and expected me to do really well.

By hosting the Olympics in 2032, I believe we will see an increase in sports participation at a junior level. When young kids see athletes competing at high levels in different sports, it definitely inspires them. That’s one of the reasons I got into swimming. I was in Year 4 during the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane and I only recently threw out all my newspaper clippings from those games. I was infatuated by it and from that moment on, I wanted to swim for Australia. I love big sporting events and I honestly think they inspire so many kids to get into sport and benefit the health of the nation.

An image of Lakeisha Patterson celebrating with a fellow Australian swimmer after winning a gold medal at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Image: Swimming Australia/Delly Carr

Image: Swimming Australia/Delly Carr

Lakeisha Patterson OAM

2016 Paralympic gold medallist
UQ Bachelor of Communication student

The possibility of Brisbane hosting the 2032 Paralympic and Olympic Games is incredibly exciting, especially for athletes, high-performance support staff and services. Being a Paralympic swimmer, and having represented Australia for more than seven years, I know too well the honour associated with wearing the green and gold. This privilege and correlated feelings of pride are entirely different when given the rare opportunity of competing on home soil. Experiencing the atmosphere at my first Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 was amazing. However, having the opportunity to compete at an international level for my country – in my country – at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, was overwhelmingly memorable. The inclusion of able-bodied and multi-class athletes alongside one another at the same major competition is an experience we don't get to witness often. I believe this helped generate a greater understanding of Paralympic sport and the possibilities one can achieve, and inspired future Paralympic hopefuls. Having home support from our community – and having friends and family attend – motivated me further to succeed, and it was great to celebrate those moments together.

I believe hosting the Paralympics and Olympics in Brisbane in 2032 will greatly benefit the performances of Australian athletes, as I have witnessed and achieved superb results on home soil first-hand. Home-crowd support gives athletes the advantage, lifting them to another level with greater desire and untapped potential.

Leaving a legacy

An image of the crowd at The Gabba during the 2020 AFL grand final in Brisbane.

Image: Albert Perez/AFL Photos/Getty Images

Image: Albert Perez/AFL Photos/Getty Images

An image of Associate Professor Sarah Kelly.

Associate Professor Sarah Kelly

UQ Business School
Faculty of Business, Economics and Law

A successful 2032 Olympics bid would produce extensive, measurable, social and economic impacts for Brisbane, Queensland and the nation. Significant impacts include bringing forward key infrastructure planned for the longer term, such as more efficient transport, community gentrification, enhanced health and security, and improved sporting and event venues. Diplomatic and trade soft power would be advanced through promoting Queensland’s destination image as safe and politically stable. A mega sporting event provides a platform to leverage and grow local technology to support infrastructure and services, which directly benefits the economy. Community pride and connection will also be enhanced, especially if local business and residents are actively involved in co-creating the event. Business and government partnerships are also expected to grow and strengthen by uniting around a common mission, centred upon generation of positive economic impact. Hosting the Games could also force governments into longer-term planning, resulting in broader social goals aimed at sustainability, equity and diversity. 


An image of Australian 400m Olympic hero Cathy Freeman after lighting the Olympic flame to start the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Image: Phil Walter/Getty Images

Image: Phil Walter/Getty Images

An image of Professor John Quiggin.

Professor John Quiggin

School of Economics
Faculty of Business, Economics and Law

In economic terms, the outcomes of major sporting events involving large government spending have generally been poor. This is despite the optimistic projections often made for such events. In their analysis of the Sydney Olympics, James Giesecke, of Monash University, and John Madden, of Victoria University Melbourne, identify three main sources of overestimation. First, the provision of public services, such as policy and public transport, to support events is often treated as if it is costless. Second, construction jobs associated with events are treated as a pure gain, when in reality, most workers will be diverted from other projects. Finally, large benefits are attributed to long-term gains in tourism, for which there is no evidence. Giesecke and Madden estimate a loss of $2.1 billion for the Sydney Olympics.

However, every Olympic Games is different. Some, such as the 1996 Atlanta Games, have actually been profitable, while those run as showpieces by authoritarian governments have been hugely costly. With careful planning, and a fair sharing of the benefits of television rights, it should be possible to keep costs down, and produce an event that will have net benefits for the people of Queensland.

Tourism and social value

An image of the man-made beach in South Bank in Brisbane.

Image: Martin Valigursky/Adobe Stock

Image: Martin Valigursky/Adobe Stock

An image of Associate Professor Judith Mair

Associate Professor Judith Mair

School of Business
Faculty of Business, Economics and Law

If Brisbane is successful in its bid to host the 2032 Olympic Games, the city can expect a significant influx of tourists, as well as the athletes, their families and media, who will use hotels, restaurants and transport facilities. The exposure that Brisbane will get from hosting the event (publicity that we could never afford to pay for) is expected to make the city an attractive prospect for tourists before and after the Games are even staged. However, evidence for long-term increases in tourism after hosting a mega-event is mixed, and a positive tourism legacy is not guaranteed. For example, Sydney saw an increase in tourism before and during the 2000 Olympics Games, but there was no evidence of a long-term increase in tourism post-Games.

An increase in tourism will bring jobs and boost local businesses, which is great news for Brisbane residents. But there will be other positive outcomes, such as increased civic pride, community health and wellbeing benefits, and enhanced quality of life – in the form of improved public transport and sporting facilities. However, Queensland residents may not see the benefits shared equally, with those living in rural and regional areas – as well as those in disadvantaged or marginalised communities – less likely to benefit. We will need to work to ensure that the benefits are dispersed fairly. Efforts are being made to propose regional locations for some event venues (such as Cairns or Townsville), but dispersing visitors to regional areas is a challenge for destination marketing bodies as it is harder to persuade international tourists – who are usually time-poor – to travel to areas that aren't as well served by transport links and tourist facilities. Specific marketing campaigns can help – the 2019 Year of Outback tourism campaign resulted in more than 1 million visitors to outback regions, the first time this number has been achieved. 

Previous mega events, such as the Rio Olympics, have led to disadvantaged and marginalised communities being forcibly relocated. Closer to home, during the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, there were reports of homeless people being moved over the border into New South Wales for the duration of the event.


An image of Roma Street Station in Brisbane at sunset looking towards Mt Coot-tha

Image: Simon/Adobe Stock

Image: Simon/Adobe Stock

An image of Associate Professor Pierre Benckendorff.

Associate Professor Pierre Benckendorff

School of Business
Faculty of Business, Economics and Law

From a transport perspective, major events can be used as leverage to prioritise funding that will fast-track major infrastructure projects. A number of the proposed Olympic venues are adjacent to major transport hubs – for example, the proposed Brisbane Live arena will be built over the top of Roma Street Station, while plans for the Cross River Rail are already indicating that this infrastructure will be built. If Olympic Games venues are spread across South East Queensland, this would also provide an incentive to fast-track transport links between the major urban centres of Brisbane, Ipswich/Springfield, the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast and Toowoomba. This includes projects such as a second Gold Coast Highway, extension of the G:Link light rail and a high-speed rail. At a more local level, a major event such as the Olympic Games will encourage the development of new pedestrian and cycling links, such as green bridges, walkways and cycleways. Finally, the Olympics generates significant global media coverage and this will stimulate new international flight connections in and out of Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

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