The senior Queensland government minister responsible for the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games has denied the event is “on the nose” in Brisbane after calls from an Olympic committee heavyweight to dump the $2.7 billion dollar Gabba redevelopment.
In an interview with NewsCorp, International Olympic Committee (IOC) vice president John Coates said he told the independent committee reviewing the Games master plan that “we should abandon the Gabba”.
Mr Coates has declined to speak to the ABC but his office has confirmed his comments are being accurately reported.
The IOC powerbroker told NewsCorp the Olympic movement had community support, but “now suddenly we’re on the nose in Brisbane”.
Asked about the comments at a media conference on Thursday, Infrastructure Minister Grace Grace said she did not believe the 2032 Games were “on the nose”, but that people were questioning the infrastructure costs.
She said she would not “pre-empt” the independent 60-day review.
Describing Mr Coates as a “very important stakeholder” who “called a spade a spade”, she denied his views superseded the review’s report – due on March 18.
“He’s a very respected and knowledgeable man and I will take John Coates’ advice,” she said.
“I’m not going to pre-empt the review. I know you’re trying to ask me a question: is it [the Gabba redevelopment] dead? This is a clean slate. And I welcome all stakeholders feedback into it.
“I don’t think it’s fair on the reviewers for me to express an opinion now, when they are working through all of the stakeholders’ submissions that have been received and are eagerly awaiting the outcome of the report.”
Mr Coates said the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies could instead be held at Brisbane’s Lang Park stadium and the athletics events at QE II stadium.
Ms Grace said they are both “worthy proposals”.
“I’m sure the committee will have a look at all of those,” she said.
‘Dead, buried and cremated’
Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner said Mr Coates was “stating the obvious” and that the Gabba rebuild is “dead, buried and cremated”.
“It was not the right option and it’s good we’re now looking for better options,” he said.
Last month, Premier Steven Miles tasked former lord mayor Graham Quirk with heading up a review of the Games master plan to rebuild the Gabba as an Olympic stadium.
In the wake of Mr Coates’s comments, Australian Olympic Committee president Ian Chesterman said there were “more creative solutions” than the rebuild and that “we will put these ideas to the review committee”.
Greens Member for South Brisbane Amy MacMahon is now calling on the state government to scrap the Gabba project.
“I don’t think we need to wait for the results of this so-called independent review to know that this project is a bad deal,” she said.
“If the Australian Olympics Committee is agreeing with the Greens and the local community … the premier needs to come clean with the community as well”.
‘I lament the loss of time’
Brisbane 2032 Organising Committee president Andrew Liveris said the latest comments from Mr Coates reflected what had been put to the review committee.
“It is the Queensland government’s role to deliver venue upgrades because investment decisions on infrastructure should be made with the needs of the growing local population in mind,” Mr Liveris said.
“That is the basis of the New Norm and Olympic Agenda 2020+5 – the Games should fit the region, not the other way around.”
Mr Liveris said planning would need to move “post haste” after the review.
“I lament the loss of time, and the distraction that has taken a little away from the amazing accomplishment of winning these Games.
“We need to not re-litigate every decision on venues and infrastructure. We need to get the best outcomes for all stakeholders and get on with the job of planning for what will be the biggest event in Queensland’s history in 2032, and one for all of us to be proud of.”
Ms Grace denied that time had been “wasted” and the Games had become a planning “mess”.
“I think that since our bid there has been a lot of changes post-COVID and I think that building costs is one of those … so it is time to take stock,” she said.