Olympics bid helped Brisbane earn the 2032 Olympic Games

The idea of transforming Brisbane into an Olympics city was born in the 1980s.

Key points:

  • Brisbane’s winning bid to host the 2032 Olympics follows a string of failed efforts dating back to the 1980s.
  • The 1992 Olympics would have altered Brisbane and resulted in the construction of a yacht port in the city’s north.
  • Previously, the bidding procedure encompassed foreign parties, which was analogous to an election campaign.

The International Olympics Committee (IOC) had heard much of the pitch before Queensland’s capital was awarded host city status for the games of the 35th Olympiad in 2032. Brisbane finished third in the bid for the 1992 Olympics, after only Barcelona and Paris.

While the endeavor failed, it did pave the way for the Sunshine State to succeed over 40 years later. What would the city have looked like if the Olympics had been staged in Brisbane in 1992?
The State Library of Queensland has saved most of the promotional material for Brisbane’s initial candidacy to the IOC. Brisbane split into Olympic zones

Robyn Hamilton, a member of the collection-building team, stated that if Brisbane had been successful, the city would have looked very different today. “The bid suggested four zones,” she explained, “one at Boon-all, one at QEII, one at Chandler, and one in the city.”

Many of the sites for 1992 were already completed, as was the case with the bid for Brisbane 2032. “The idea was to arrive in a place that already had a lot of infrastructure,” Ms. Hamilton explained.

“Because we had such a great Commonwealth Games in 1982, it was assumed that we already had a lot of venues and amenities.”

Does this sound familiar? It should, because this was one of Queensland Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk’s primary selling arguments in her final bid to the IOC for Tokyo 2020.

Lowering host city costs was a fresh emphasis for the IOC, and it helped Queensland obtain Australia’s third Olympic Games, following Sydney in 2000 and Melbourne in 1956.

What did not come to completion, however, was the redevelopment of Boon-all, a suburb in Brisbane’s north, into an athletes’ village capable of housing 15,000 competitors and officials.

According to artist impressions, the community would have had its own yacht port as well as a number of training facilities, including an aquatic and hockey center located nearby.

Zone 1 was centred on the city centre, including media facilities at South Bank. Several sports, including tennis, boxing, football, and water polo, would have been played in locations within the zone, such as Lang Park.

Athletes and officials would have been based in Zone 2 at Boondall. One of the benefits at the time was the building of the Gateway Bridge in January 1986. Delegates informed the IOC that the improved infrastructure will let athletes to be within 20 kilometres or 30 minutes of all events.

Swimming, weightlifting, badminton, cycling, judo, and table tennis would have all been played in Zone 3, which was headquartered in Chandler’s Sleeman Sports Complex.

The Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Sports Centre, Zone 3, was supposed to hold the opening and closing ceremonies and could have held up to 95,000 people with temporary grandstands brought in


Olympic bidding like an election campaign ‘schmooze’ 

The IOC has since simplified the voting process, but becoming an Olympic host in 1986 was more akin to running for office. IOC representatives would go to prospective host cities, who would then attempt to “earn” their support.

Former mayor Sallyanne Atkinson travelled the world as the face of Brisbane’s 1992 candidacy, which included a television commercial and the song “Brisbane Is Ready,” sung by local musicians. “Whenever we had IOC members visit Brisbane, they always wanted to go to Lone Pine and cuddle a koala,” she explained.

“In fact, we got the koalas to come into City Hall on a few of times.”

“Schmooze is a great term because that’s exactly what it was.” She described being one of the final six candidates for the 1992 Olympics as “far more easygoing and informal” than the procedure now. “There were parties held by each of the visiting cities, and we all went to everyone else’s city,” Ms Atkinson explained.

This included a final trip to the IOC in Switzerland, where Ms Atkinson remembered realising Barcelona was the overwhelming favourite to host the 1992 Summer Olympics. “I used to tell IOC members that in Australia, we have a very renowned horse race called the Melbourne Cup, and the favourite never wins, so you know, we’re always a chance,” she explained.


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