Brisbane won’t get a stadium to ‘rival the MCG’, so what will its Olympic legacy be?

Brisbane won’t get a stadium to ‘rival the MCG’, so what will its Olympic legacy be?
  • PublishedMarch 24, 2024

What will the legacy be for Brisbane 2032 under the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) “new norm”?

The Queensland government has promised the Games will have a lasting impact for future generations. 

But, in the past, Olympic hosts have been left a legacy of debt. 

It’s led the IOC to bring in a new norm that allows for smaller venues and discourages host cities from building stadiums just for the Games.

This week Queensland Premier Steven Miles vetoed a recommendation to build a new stadium, suggested by former Brisbane lord mayor Graham Quirk as a potential “rival” for the MCG.

A close-up of the Wally Lewis statue outside Lang Park, with the Suncorp Stadium sign in the background.
Lang Park will now host the 2032 Olympic opening and closing ceremonies.(ABC News: Arianna Levy)

Instead, several venues will be revamped: Lang Park for the opening and closing ceremonies, the Queensland Sport Athletics Centre (QSAC) freshened up for competitors, and the Gabba — previously tipped for a $2.7 billion demolition and rebuild — will get a “more modest enhancement”.

What can be done to elevate Lang Park?

Andrew Chapman from the Queensland Constructors Association said Lang Park would need a lot of work — not just on the stadium, but on public transport and pedestrian infrastructure as well. 

He said when it was first built, Lang Park was “done to a budget”, and only about a third of the planned pedestrian concourse over Hale Street was built. 

“To do it for the Olympics, you would need to cover all of that,” Mr Chapman said. 

He’s also doubtful Lang Park has room for more seats.

“To put another level on it, you’d have to pull the roof down and you’d have to redesign the structure,” Mr Chapman said. 

“It’s the best viewing stadium in the country for rectangular sport because there’s not a bad seat in the house. But I can’t see where you would squeeze any more seats in.”

The 60-day review, led by Mr Quirk, recommended a new stadium at Victoria Park for about $3 billion — well above the already problematic Gabba price tag. 

The glass walls of Suncorp Stadium. On the concrete wall, a banner with the Queensland Government logo hangs, obscured by trees.
Andrew Chapman from the Queensland Constructors Association said Lang Park would have to be redesigned if another level was added.(ABC News: Chris Gillette)

“Integrating a new stadium within Brisbane City Council’s revitalised Victoria Park parklands has significant potential to create something truly unique in Queensland and to rival iconic parkland stadiums, such as the MCG in Melbourne,” the report read. 

“As well as creating an extraordinary legacy for Queensland sport, a stadium set within regenerated parklands, with the Brisbane City skyline, Brisbane River and Mt Coot-tha in the background, will create a stunning backdrop for the Games.”

Instead, the QSAC will be redeveloped for about $1.6 billion.

“QSAC itself, whilst it’s a great facility to serve the city for 40 years, is kind of in the middle of nowhere in terms of a transport connection,” Mr Chapman said.

No MCG, but what about PT?

So we won’t get the likes of an MCG — but will there be a public transport legacy?

Matthew Burke from Griffith University’s Cities Research Institute said Brisbane’s rail network was already one a lot of cities “would be very envious of”. 

“We don’t necessarily run it the best, but it’s a pretty good rail system,” he said. 

What would help is extending the metro bus line to QSAC, he said. 

“This could be a chance that we take the Metro through [Griffith University] campus and down to the other big land use in the area that has no decent public transport, to the QE2 Hospital,” Professor Burke said.

“You could cure those problems by taking the Metro up, and our eastern car park [at the QE2 Hospital] — where the Brisbane Metro could go and could deliver patrons to QSAC — is only a couple of hundred metres walk from touching the stadium, and doing so with very little topography as well.”

Professor Bourke is glad there’s been no “stupidity” as there has been ahead of other Games and World Expos, such as the magnetic levitating trains at Nagoya in 2005.

“God bless them that no-one in government ever wanted to build a nuclear-powered, gold-plated monorail for the Games,” he said.

“We haven’t had any of that stupidity, thank goodness.”

But he believes there’s a chance to spend “a bit of money”.

“Not ridiculous billions, but a modest sum and get a reasonable bit of transport legacy to the city,” he said.

How do we get a tourism return?

Games often don’t get the tourism return that’s expected, according to Sheranne Fairley from the University of Queensland Business School. 

She said the opportunities weren’t just for during the Games, but the weeks before and after.

“We’ve got opportunities such as pre-Games training, when the athletes and entourages come and train and acclimatise before the actual [event],” Dr Fairley said.

There were also ways to lengthen people’s stays, she said. 

“With what Formula 1 do, they have a rest day for the drivers, which is kind of unnecessary for the drivers, but it keeps the tourists here for an extra day,” Dr Fairley said. 

“We’ve also got opportunities to try and lengthen stays within the destination. So once we get the tourists here, how do we keep them here for longer?

“Otherwise it’s a lot of wasted money because with some Olympic Games, usually we don’t see that tourism boom that people expect.”

Dr Fairley said there was also the opportunity to target new tourism markets.

“Even some of the much smaller markets that might not have the ability to spend as much, we’ve still got the opportunity to go to those markets through their athletes being here and create opportunities,” she said.

“It’s not necessarily about one particular market, but [asking], ‘How can we look at everyone coming as a whole and try and maximise the potential there?'”


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