Olympic Legacy Infrastructure Key to SEQ’s Transport Success

Brisbane's Story Bridge with Olympic Rings. Image by @phillbj
Brisbane's Story Bridge with Olympic Rings. Image by @phillbj

Opinion: South East Queensland should pursue the 2032 Olympic Games, not because of potential sporting achievements or international recognition, but because of the injection of infrastructure funds that we would otherwise not receive.

The large new infrastructure projects we are seeing coming to fruition like Cross River Rail and Brisbane Metro are bare minimum ‘catch up’ projects. They are infrastructure projects that should have been delivered 10 years ago.

The world’s largest and most extensive sporting event, the Olympic Games as we know only lasts for 16 days.

But even for this brief 16 days of hosting this significant human event, billions of dollars are systematically poured into infrastructure and facility upgrades across the host city in order to facilitate a surge of visitors.

According to the recently released feasibility study commissioned by the Council of Mayors South East Queensland, non-infrastructure related costs of a 2032 SEQ Olympics would be expected to be cost-neutral or even make a profit. Meaning the only costs associated with hosting the Olympics is the lasting accompanying infrastructure.

The total non-infrastructure related costs of the games are expected to be $5.3 billion with $1.7 billion coming from the International Olympic Committee, $2.7 billion from domestic revenue and $900 million as a net cost of the games.

However, according to the Brisbane Times it was expected that the $1.7 billion contribution from the IOC would be higher than anticipated after the committee revealed it would contribute US$1.8 billion ($2.5 billion AUD) to the Los Angeles Olympic Games which will be held in 2028.

Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner told media yesterday that the operating costs of the games can be done in a cost-neutral manner.

“This is a better outcome than we anticipated in our feasibility report.” Cr Schrinner said.

For many people, this is the number one objection to hosting the Olympics. It is seen as a waste of resources for just 16 days of sporting competition.

The olympics is not about sport, its about infrastructure

It is rightfully true that many governments have indeed mismanaged resources in the lead up to an Olympic Games. Many cities now squirm in discomfort over the thought of an Athens / Rio de Janeiro style post-Olympic spectacle. For those two cities, extremely poor decisions were made about numerous issues which lead to significant problems. Issues like the lack of appropriate scalable facilities, the concentration of them and complete absence of any post-Olympic revitalisation and renewal strategies.

Australia has a proven track record of appropriately managing large world events and their legacy. In terms of land use, the reason Brisbane’s popular South Bank exists is because of the successful planning of the World Expo site, which to this day remains Brisbane’s number one ‘peoples asset’.

In Sydney, after a few years of readjusting, the Olympic Park is largely seen as a successful urban renewal precinct, serviced by rail and soon light rail to Paramatta.

The recent Gold Coast Commonwealth Games was a good example of the government creating scalable sporting facilities which were scaled back after the games concluded.

Fortunately, however, legacy mass transit infrastructure that matters to people can’t and wouldn’t be scaled back. For the Gold Coast that was stage 1 and 2 of the Gold Coast Light Rail. For Sydney, it was the Airport Link train line and T7 Olympic train lines.

The saying “money could be better spent elsewhere” is commonly used by opponents of a hypothetical Olympic bid. But that is just the thing. That money wouldn’t be made available let alone spent on lasting infrastructure we need now, would it not be for an Olympic games. It would take another two decades to get the infrastructure we should be building now, with our standard political will and the evolution time of major projects.

In essence, getting the Olympics is a bit like cheating the system. Getting what we need now, simply because of 16 days of sport. We just need to ensure the infrastructure built is the right kind of infrastructure that will benefit us for years to come.

Launchpad for a New Brand “SEQ”

The SEQ Council of Mayors is seriously considering a region-wide bid for the Olympic Games in 2032 with events to be held across Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast, the Gold Coast, Ipswich, Toowoomba, Redland, Moreton Bay and Logan instead of a single city bid.

The games could spark something unexpected in the sense it brings the region together. Just like southern California, which is known as ‘SoCal’, South East Queensland can use the Olympics as a launchpad for a new regional brand – SEQ.

One region, together, connected. It is looking increasingly likely that if a bid was to be made (which needs to be established by next year), it would be under an ‘SEQ brand’. SEQ2032.com has already been taken by the Council of Mayors.

Hypothetical locations

While venues would be spread throughout SEQ, due to capacity restraints of Suncorp and The Gabba, it is understood there is a need for a main stadium location in Brisbane with small, perhaps more temporary structures surrounding it.

Three hypothetical inner-city locations have been selected by BrisbaneDevelopment.com as potential sites for the main stadium.

Northshore Park

Artist's impression of Northshore Olympic Park

Northshore Hamilton is the furthest hypothetical site from the CBD located approximately 8kms drive from the CBD. While its location does not currently provide mass transit, this in itself could be an opportunity as this location would greatly benefit from mass transit.

Pros:

  • Cleared construction-ready site
  • Close to Brisbane Airport / new Brisbane International Cruise Terminal
  • Picturesque riverside location
  • Urban renewal hotspot
  • Potential to supply growth area with metro/rail corridor

Cons

  • Proximity to CBD
  • No existing rail corridor (also an opportunity)
  • Existing Northshore Hamilton renewal plan would need to be re-written

Victoria Park

Victoria Park is the closest of the three hypothetical locations, being on the edge of the CBD in Spring Hill. Whilst the loss of green space from Victoria Park would be a negative, there are opportunities to create new activated parkland and gardens around the main stadium to compensate for the loss.

Pros:

  • Closest hypothetical location to the CBD
  • Potential to gain new parkland and gardens
  • Existing rail corridor running underneath (linked to Cross River Rail)
  • Existing Brisbane Metro and busway corridor running beside
  • Located next to existing Centenary Aquatic Centre

Cons:

  • Loss of existing Victoria Park Golf Course
  • Potentially expensive to construct over the ICB and rail corridor

Albion Park

Albion has been chosen as a hypothetical Olympic site due to the inherent green qualities of Breakfast Creek as well as existing rail infrastructure. Breakfast creek would also greatly benefit from large scale industrial resumptions which could transform the peninsula into a green oasis of parkland and gardens. The adjacent Albion railyards site was overlooked due to the sheer cost of building the entirety of the Olympic park over rail. The Albion peninsula has fewer rail lines to build over.

Pros:

  • Existing rail lines running through the site
  • Renew a very tired inner-city industrial area of Brisbane
  • Potential to revitalise breakfast creek to become more accessible, green and utilised for water activities

Cons:

  • Potentially expensive due to the number of site resumptions required
  • Relocation of BCC bus depo needed
  • Displacement of existing businesses

The Olympic Games barely lasts three weeks, however its legacy infrastructure lasts for generations.

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Which of the three potential main stadium sites would you support as part of a 2032 SEQ Olympic bid?

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Top 5 Olympic infrastructure ‘wish list’ projects

  1. SEQ High-Speed Rail
  2. East-West Underground Metropolitan Rapid Transit (MRT)
  3. Brisbane Metro Extension to Chermside (Northern Transitway)
  4. Eastern & Western Transitways
  5. Conversion of Busways to also accommodate light rail

3 COMMENTS

  1. Why not build it between the Gold Coast and Brisbane. Transport exists hotels in both sectors will be used anyway to accomodate the people in addition to the new hotels that would be built that would benefit and support in the longer term the essential for tourism theme parks / infrastructure in addition to ongoing sporting events and corridor growth. Coomera could be viable with the theme parks, hotels, Olympic village, new retail including westfields, Logan and the region as a whole etc all benefiting. Ample parking could be created in addition to rail and bus support.The infrastructure will be a catalyst for further strengthening both Brisbane and the Gold Coast but ultimately SEQ without the need for the expensive resumptions. Why does it need to be so close to the CBD. If the transport is managed well it can take the pressure off the CBD by strengthening the arterial corridor of business in SEQ with flights into both Brisbane and the Gold Coast. It would lengthen and encourage longer guest stays, the Gold Coast and infrastructure has benefited from the Commonwealth Games why not further leverage upon the benefits. The corridor is already a feeder for commerce, the village could be sold off with the occupants having access to transport, jobs and growth of Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the high growth area currently. Both cities are growing in the direction and SEQ would be the ultimate winner. The key is transport, the corridor already exists

  2. Why not redevelop the existing QEII sports park into an Olympic site? It was once the home of the comm game after all.

  3. The QEII precinct would be my preferred location. It’s a great site and any lasting infrastructure would compliment it’s proximity to Griffith Uni.

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