“And the winner for the right to host the Games of the 35th Olympiad is … Brisbane!”
Right now, it is a one-horse race but anything, or something, might happen; unlikely though.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has designated Brisbane’s bid for the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games “Preferred Bid Status” meaning it is the only one of numerous bid cities that has progressed to the next phase called “targeted dialogue”.
It will be followed by “final negotiations”, and then the rubber-stamping exercise of declaring Brisbane the winner will happen at an IOC session as early as the Tokyo Olympics in July, although with COVID restrictions it may be later in the year.
IOC President Thomas Bach said discussions, in the early hours of the morning Australian time, were “intensive”.
In the end though, there was no doubt.
“The Future Host Commission recommended to the Executive Board to enter into a targeted dialogue with Brisbane 2032 and the Australian Olympic Committee for the Games of the 35th Olympiad,” Mr Bach said.
The Chair of the IOC’s Future Host Commission, Kristin Kloster Aasen, was asked if there was any reason why Australians should not spend today celebrating.
“This is a decision made today that takes the Australian project into a dialogue,” she said.
“Depending on the outcome of the targeted dialogue and the recommendation that we might give to the Executive Board for them maybe to put the Brisbane project forward for an election at the session.
In a one-horse race it appears it will be difficult to lose from here.
In changing the election system to eradicate any potential blocs forming, or dare-it-be-said bribes being offered, the Future Host Commission was made up of four IOC members who cannot be members of the executive board.
It enters into a series of conversations with interested cities then reviews the criteria before making its recommendations to the executive board.
By the time the members get to vote at the IOC session, they no longer have a choice.
The system is the brainchild of the IOC Vice-President who also happens to be the President of the Australian Olympic Committee, John Coates.
According to most Australians, it is a brilliant system.
However, some others have been wondering whether the system was designed with a potential host city already in mind, a host city with an already mapped-out plan complete with support from all levels of government, backing from the private sector and ‘independent’ support from organisations such as the World Bank, the International Labour Organisation and numerous UN Agencies.
Brisbane’s bid was “excellent” and “very advanced” according to Ms Kloster Aasen, Vice-President of the Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic Committee, and IOC member.
“The mandate of the commission allows us to assess the global context, including social, economic and geo-political aspects and future challenges for the Olympic Games such as climate change,” she said.
Predicting future revenue in post-pandemic world a difficult task
In the coming months Brisbane’s 2032 Taskforce will sit with the IOC’s Executive Director of the Olympic Games, Christophe Dubi, to fine-tune plans and budgets — a difficult task 11 years out.
The Queensland Government’s 2032 Taskforce, in its Value Proposition Assessment of 2019, suggested the Games could run on a budget of $4.5 billion “at no cost to the State” taking into account IOC contributions and domestic revenues such as ticketing and merchandising.
Economic benefits for Queensland have been estimated at $7.4 billion.
Projecting Games budgets — both costs and benefits — has been a notoriously difficult and imprecise science, and that was before the globe had to deal with an unexpected pandemic.
The Taskforce estimated there would be an uplift in tourism stemming from the Games between 2020 and 2036 worth an expected $20.2 billion in visitor expenditure.
That figure is already incredibly out of date, with the COVID-19 pandemic at its height estimated to have cost the state around $6 million tourism dollars each day.
Take a look at Tokyo.
Originally it estimated a Games budget of $7.5 billion. It is now reportedly at more than $25 billion, although it’s not expected that Brisbane 2032 will suffer the same devastating impact that Tokyo felt, with its Games delayed by a year as coronavirus swept the globe.
But who is to say what the world will look like in 2032?
As economic strength of the US gives way to a new world order, with China sitting in pole position, the geopolitical environment will have shifted monumentally.
Just as Tokyo has learned from single-sport events that have developed lessons in dealing with COVID, Brisbane 2032 will benefit from austerity measures Tokyo will have to implement in delivering its delayed Games from this July.
The IOC will observe that more is not necessarily better, and that moral responsibility has its own benefits.
Allegations of gigantism and an event that had lost touch with the global reality may dissipate if Tokyo’s delivery of the Olympic and Paralympic Games shines a different light on how it can be done.
Adjustments like the ‘fly-in fly-out as you compete’ model will stay, meaning the thousands of athletes and officials that have all been accommodated for the duration of the Games are a thing of the past.
That alone reduces costs on accommodation, hospitality, transport and other services with a huge impact on the bottom line.
Queensland’s “whole of state” approach will also lessen the burden on Brisbane and South East Queensland specifically with training centres and competition hubs planned for other regions.
The IOC is impressed that there will be no ‘white elephants’ left as 90 per cent of venues are already in existence or will be of a temporary nature.
The fact Queensland has overlaid its Games plans on a larger strategy of population growth and expected infrastructure requirements means the Olympics won’t so much be a burden on the already existing stresses of a city but may help in alleviating the growing pains of a state on the move.
In the words of John Coates, Brisbane today is “in the box seat”.