Most host cities lose money on the Olympics – SEQ Olympics needs to be delivered cost-effectively

While it’s exciting news that SEQ is the lead candidate for the 2032 Olympics (check out the Brisbane Times report), the reality is that the Olympics probably won’t be an economic boon and it will end up costing Queensland taxpayers and SEQ ratepayers. You can argue it’s a good thing to host the Olympics, for community spirit and to encourage participation in sport, but it’s hard to make an economic argument for it, given most host cities lose a lot of money – Montreal in 1976 being the classic example – unless the host city re-uses a lot of old facilities (e.g. LA in 1984) or it really does signal a re-opening of the city to the world and stimulates a tourism boom (e.g. Barcelona in 1992).

We need to deliver an SEQ Olympics cost-effectively, which is why it is concerning the Brisbane Lord Mayor sees this as an opportunity to spend big on infrastructure (see Brisbane lord mayor calls for decade-long Olympics boom). Sure, some infrastructure spending may be needed, but let’s make sure the cost-benefit analysis studies are done and the projects stack up over the long-term.

I made some comments to CPA Australia’s In the Black magazine about the Olympics bid earlier this month and hopefully the magazine will be available soon. Previously I commented on the SEQ Olympics bid on QEW in 2016 when it was first announced:

SEQ should note growing realisation the Olympics is a waste of money

Brisbane City Coat of Arms, corner of Wickham Terrace and Albert St, Spring Hill, Brisbane. Photo by Jennifer Tunny.
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3 Responses to Most host cities lose money on the Olympics – SEQ Olympics needs to be delivered cost-effectively

  1. Russell says:

    Gene, I think this is positive as long as we capitalise on the facilities we have and add to them not go over the top building new ones. Also, making it a truely SEQ olympics with the Gold and Sunshine Coasts also heavily involved will be a very positive promotion for tourism and business. I read your 2016 article and wonder why the return from the Sydney Olympics is not considered more positively. From 2000 Australia became very fashionable globally. Initially in US and Europe and then as China boomed economically we had increasing numbers of Chinese tourists and students and significant investment. I don’t think we can divorce some of this success from putting Australia and especially Sydney with its beautiful harbour and climate on the world stage. Whilst, Brisbane is not Sydney we do have magnificent coastal areas close by, Moreton Bay and further afield world class tourist destinations. I believe the Olympics should be seen as an expensive advertisement that brings benefits over a decade or two.

    • Gene Tunny says:

      Hi Russell, thanks for the comments. I’d like to think it will bring long-term benefits, and it appears the IOC is kicking in some money, but I’m not confident we’ll see net benefits based on historical experience.

  2. Romeo Esangga says:

    As mentioned earlier, historically it does not have long term economic benefits. In regard to big opportunity for infrastructure spending, I have learnt recently that almost 80% or more of infrastructure are already in place it. If this is the case, I think the rest should be privatized especially the housing development of it to minimize public borrowings, no increase in tax and payers’ rates. If privatization is part of the funding, Queensland may expect some Olympics dividends.

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