Sunday, November 28 2021

Rightly, John Coates described the Olympic and Paralympic Games as “not won, but served”. Hours later, Brisbane would not really “win” the hosting rights for the 2032 Games; instead, by taking the weight of an Olympiad, Brisbane will be doing the Olympic movement a service.

Timing may be everything in the sport, and it will be 11 years before we can say whether the Queensland capital’s rescue plan for the Games will have been years ahead or embarrassingly behind. Brisbane will either be the wide-eyed yokel who marveled at the chance to be the only bidder in an empty auction house, or it will be the genius who landed the best deal on Earth.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and John Coates (left) at the Tokyo event which confirmed Brisbane to host the 2032 Olympics. Credit:ABC

Bidding for the Olympics when the popularity of the Games is at an all-time low could still prove to be a triumph of speculative genius worthy of the White Shoe Brigade. And Brisbane couldn’t have bought much lower. Gone are the days when cities had to outdo each other to buy favors from members of the International Olympic Committee, and not just because the IOC has cleaned up itself. The host city bidding process is no longer competitive. Los Angeles won the unopposed hosting rights of 2028 (as in previous economic depressions when it became the host city for the 1932 and 1984 Games). This year Brisbane only had to outdo itself: the IOC vote was simply Brisbane or bust. The Brisbanites reunited on Wednesday didn’t have to bite their nails while waiting for Thomas Bach to announce the winner, and the city’s fireworks had been bought on a no-return policy. The Olympics are not won immediately, they are served.

Masks at the IOC conference, on the eve of the largely unwanted Tokyo event, could underline the current Olympic stigma, but COVID did not create it. The economic burden was doing this job before the pandemic. Tokyo won the rights to host these Games from a competitive group from Istanbul, Madrid, Baku, Doha and Rome. Rio de Janeiro won the 2016 Games against six rival cities. At Games time, Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 are grim warning tales and prohibitive examples for cities around the world. Except Brisbane.

Spectators celebrate after Brisbane was announced as host of the 2032 Olympics.

Spectators celebrate after Brisbane was announced as host of the 2032 Olympics.Credit:Getty

Brisbane, having bought so low, will it be seen in 2032 and beyond having sold high? This is the optimistic view expressed by political leaders and Coates at Wednesday’s IOC conference. Prime Minister Scott Morrison felt emboldened to speak “on behalf of 25 million Australians passionate about sport” when he pleaded the Brisbane case to the IOC. Coates described the commitment to host the Games as “a genuinely comfortable understanding for the people of Brisbane because it is genuine”. You had to smile. May every result of these next Games be higher, faster, stronger and more authentic, comfortable and authentic.


Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk presented the economic case for Brisbane’s investment “not for the Games, but in time for them”. It went against Brisbane in the service of the Games, but it was aimed at a national audience. Queensland will obtain its infrastructure, “at no cost” as it is usually called at the time of bids, for its own good. And who knows? The 1984 Los Angeles Games, guaranteed in 1978 after the economic disaster of Montreal in 1976, came to be recognized as one of those Olympics that left a positive benefit / cost ratio for the host city. Queensland’s first presentation was at least consistent for a prime minister who built his popularity by sealing his state’s borders against the outside world.

Master of ceremonies Coates, who will be seen as having orchestrated an agreement for his two bailiwicks – the IOC and Australia – got into the slogan affair early on, dubbing Brisbane the “Games together”. At a time when the supporting elements of the Olympics are separating by centrifugal force – and at a time when Queensland is anything but “together” with the rest of Australia, let alone the world – that was a statement of the world. countercyclical hope, a real reach for the skies. The first world record for these Games, in the sport of pure optimism, has just been set.

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