MITCHELL JOHNSON: Stop playing politics with the Brisbane Olympics

Mitchell Johnson
The Nightly
3 Min Read
As a Queenslander, Brisbane’s 2032 Olympics debacle has become embarrassing, writes Mitchell Johnson.
As a Queenslander, Brisbane’s 2032 Olympics debacle has become embarrassing, writes Mitchell Johnson. Credit: Supplied.

As a Queenslander, Brisbane’s 2032 Olympics debacle has become embarrassing.

How is it that the city could win the bid nearly three years ago without having a very good idea of how it was going to be delivered?

The backlash against the Olympic Games — to the extent the Queensland Government even reportedly investigated the option of pulling out altogether — has surprised me. It’s mind-blowing that we’ve now arrived at such an unsettled position.

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Remember this is all playing out in front of the world. Perhaps even worse was a cheeky dig from close to home, coming from over the border from the New South Wales premier after the success of the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

My memory of Sydney is of our proud and patriotic population who were pumped for our nation to be on the global stage. The majority of people appeared to be right behind it.

It should be a great moment in our history and it’s something I thought everyone would be behind.

It’s hard to believe how differently the 2032 Olympics are being received. Maybe Sydney was just better suited as host. But I think times have changed as well.

Building costs escalate dramatically every year, let alone decade. And amid the cost-of-living crisis, doing anything big has become harder.

Since COVID, we are probably a different nation too. I think people are more willing to voice their opinions and are less trusting of governments in general. But ultimately, it’s descended into political manoeuvring and point scoring at a time real leadership is needed.

Hosting the 2032 Olympics remains a great opportunity for Brisbane, Queensland and Australia.

Queensland is such a big sporting state and the idea of taking it on was the right one. It should be a great moment in our history and it’s something I thought everyone would be behind.

Queensland premier Steven Miles seems to have gone for the worst of three options this week, by choosing a $1.6 billion redevelopment of the Queensland Sport and Athletic Centre to host athletics in front of 40,000 fans. It’s miles away, transport would be difficult, and it would become a white elephant once the party is over.

Either a rebuilt Gabba or a brand new stadium at inner city Victoria Park would be better options.

What price can you put on maintaining and strengthening Australia’s sporting culture and inspiring the next generation?

As a lover of tradition, this is a tricky issue to get my head around. My heart says the Gabba. The Gabba is part of our sporting history and it means something. I don’t want to lose it. And an improved stadium would continue to be used all-year round by Australian Rules football and cricket.

But I know the review pointed out flaws with the original Gabba rebuild plan including space limitations.

If retaining the Gabba long-term is not feasible, then Vic Park makes a fair bit of sense. It would be easy to get to and they could build some impressive infrastructure around it. It would leave a legacy and it’s probably the smartest way forward.

The political reality is the Queensland election looming later this year means that no decision announced this week is really a final decision anyway.

The short-term politics seems to be all about money and votes. But what price can you put on maintaining and strengthening Australia’s sporting culture and inspiring the next generation?

Growing up in Townsville, sport was such a big part of our lives — especially team sport. I don’t know where I would have ended up without sport.

Sport is an escape and plays a valuable role in helping a lot of kids who have difficult upbringings. It teaches discipline, teamwork and a host of other skills that assist people throughout their lives.

On top of the Olympics’ direct and indirect ability to put Brisvegas on the map and grow tourism, sport can play a role in creating potential savings across other areas of the state budget including health and the justice system.

However much Brisbane 2032 ends up costing taxpayers, I believe it will still be good investment in the long run.

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