Regional concerns over 2032 Brisbane Olympics

The Queensland Premier, Brisbane Lord Mayor, and federal Sports Minister are flying to Tokyo for the Olympics, to make the final pitch for Brisbane to host the Games in 2032, although we’re the preferred bidder and apparently the only city left in the race, leaving many to wonder whether the trip is necessary and whether any discussions with the IOC couldn’t be conducted over Zoom instead. As I’ve commented on QEW before (e.g. my 28 February post), the state government hasn’t yet produced a convincing case the Olympics would bring net benefits to Queensland, particularly given that the massive cost over-runs of some past Olympics in other cities are notorious (e.g. Montreal, Rio, and now Tokyo). The state government has undertaken far less economic analysis of a 2032 Olympics than it has required for less costly infrastructure projects.

Economists and business academics are asking questions about the merits of Brisbane hosting the Olympics (e.g. see the CPA Australia In the Black article I’m quoted in). We are also seeing criticism from regional Queensland of the Brisbane Olympics bid. Retired Townsville Bulletin journalist Malcolm Weatherup has just published a blistering critique of the bid, which is a delight to read, in his latest Magpie’s Nest newsletter:

A successful bid for the 2032 Olympics will be an easily foreseeable disaster for Queensland rate and taxpayers. The sugar hit of a massive economic influx will be preceded and followed by the taste of ashes in the mouth for years across the whole state, as the cost of momentary glory becomes obvious as vital community projects in the regions are delayed or shelved as money is poured into the required infrastructure build. Jobs and more jobs you say? Yes, that’s for certain, but they will be in the south-east corner, there will be no Olympic infrastructure projects of any note outside that bubble … and those jobs will be filled by skilled tradesmen flocking in to Brisbane [and] the Gold Coast from guess where? That’s right, from the regions, including Townsville, where tradies are in short supply already for a variety of reasons. The need will be so great that interstate workers will gravitate to the Queensland capital, which will put a brake on population and skill growth in regional areas…

…And it’s a generational thing, too. In much the same way that Baby Boomers are being pilloried for perceived ‘selfishness’, so will those behind this wrong headed seeking of personal glory … it will take decades for this binge spending hangover to be paid for, long after today’s current decision makers are cursed in their graves and the history books damning of their stupidity.

Like Cross River Rail, a Brisbane Olympics would reinforce the perception in regional Queensland that the state government favours the South East. Moreover, it may not be in the best interests of the state overall, and I expect to learn about large cost over-runs on Olympics projects in future years. Alas, the state government didn’t crunch the numbers properly before committing the state to the bid.

Brisbane coat of arms on corner of Wickham Terrace and Albert St, Spring Hill.

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