OP ED – We Must Play to Win; The road to the 2032 Olympic Games


With the Tokyo Games now just a year away, the starting gun has already been fired to secure the 2032 Olympics for South East Queensland.

So when will the Palaszczuk Government get out of the blocks and join Prime Minister Scott Morrison and local mayors in campaigning to host the games here?

I woke up with great excitement yesterday as the Premier announced she would match the $10 million that the Federal Government has committed to an Olympic bid, but my elation was short lived after learning the State Government’s contribution was not in the form of money but rather an in-kind contribution of the state bureaucracy. What’s more, the Premier doesn’t want to make a decision about pitching a proposal to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) until at least early next year. She can’t be serious.    

Melbourne staged the Olympics Games more than 60 years ago while Sydney played host nearly 20 years ago. So why does the Queensland Premier seem to show a complete lack of belief and confidence in the capacity of South East Queensland to do the same in 2032?

The reality is that SEQ couldn’t be in a better position to secure the world’s greatest sporting event.

Australia is a safe and secure country. We are a sporting nation with a demonstrable track record in staging major events while SEQ is a tourism mecca with destinations like the Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast and Brisbane City.

Recent changes to the charter of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have also boosted our chances.  Regions rather than cities can now host the Games and priority is to be given to existing or temporary venues, which lowers the risk of white elephants. What’s more, the IOC’s ongoing reforms should see both the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games run on a cost neutral basis.   

Considerable investment in transport infrastructure will of course be required to improve connectivity but that’s the case, regardless of the Olympics, due to population growth as SEQ is set to reach 6.3 million people by 2050. The good news is that the Federal, State and Local Governments are already working together on a City Deal which becomes the ideal mechanism for agreeing on infrastructure priorities and how they should be funded.  

So can we win the right to host the 2032 Olympic Games? Yes we can. I know that’s a bold and audacious claim and there will be the naysayers, but as Cathy Freeman once said “you got to try and reach for the stars or try and achieve the unreachable.”

I’ve spent much of my international career before politics working on large and highly complex deals, and yes this one will be challenging. It’s winnable but we need to move fast.    

One of the IOC’s recent changes was to scrap the 7-year rule where they elect hosts of future Games seven years in advance, allowing them to determine who will host a Games far earlier. This creates an opportunity for SEQ to capture first mover advantage.

The idea of SEQ hosting the 2032 Olympic Games is not a new idea. To its credit, the SEQ Council of Mayors has been building the case for years, backed by the ground breaking work of The Courier-Mail’s Future SEQ and Future Tourism campaigns. We now have to build on that work to assess the opportunity and start formulating a compelling pitch for the IOC.

There are pre-requisites for successfully executing such deals and one of them is a united effort. The full force of Team Australia must come to bear and that includes all three tiers of government, the Australian Olympic Committee, the private sector and the community at large.

The Councils of SEQ are clearly on board and Prime Minister Morrison could not be more supportive after “spruiking his socks off” when he met IOC President Thomas Bach in Osaka last month.

SEQ’s media outlets from The Courier-Mail to the Gold Coast Bulletin, the Sunshine Coast Daily, Queensland Times and Toowoomba Chronicle have all united to back the bid.

Now we need Premier Palaszczuk and the Queensland Government to come to the party. My only ask of the Premier right now, is to match the efforts of our Prime Minister. Firstly, to embrace a genuine, united “Team Australia” approach and a bid governance structure that reflects the same. Secondly, to commit real money to the deal making process to match the Federal Government’s $10 million rather than offering only in-kind contributions. And thirdly, to avoid further delays by making a definitive decision in support of a proposal for the IOC far sooner than early next year.     

This is a call to arms to Premier Palaszczuk and her Government. The IOC is watching and so too are other rival cities and regional candidates keen to host the 2032 Olympics.

Now is not the time for hesitation or prevarication. We must play to win.


Ted O’Brien
Federal Member for Fairfax
Commonwealth Representative for the 2032 Olympic Games Bid

This Op Ed appeared in the Brisbane Courier Mail on Wednesday 24 July 2019 – link HERE

I spoke about the importance of the State Government committing to the bid in Parliament on 22 July. Click below to watch.

Ted O'Brien MP - Olympics

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