How a failed Olympic bid paved the way for Brisbane to secure the 2032 Olympics


The idea of ​​transforming Brisbane into an Olympic city originated in the 1980s.

When the capital of Queensland was granted host city status for the games of the 35th Olympiad in 2032, it turns out that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had already heard a lot about the pitch.

Brisbane finished in the bronze medal position behind Barcelona and Paris in the 1992 Olympic bid.

Although this attempt failed, it did bring the Sunshine State to success almost 40 years later.

What would the city have looked like if the 1992 Olympics had been held in Brisbane?

Much of the promotional material for Brisbane’s first IOC bid has been archived by the State Library of Queensland.

Brisbane divided into Olympic zones

Robyn Hamilton is part of the collection’s construction team and said that looking back if Brisbane had been successful the city would have been completely different today.

“The offer offered four zones; one in Boondall, one in QEII, one in Chandler and one in the city,” she said.

An artist’s print shows an imaginary athletic village built to house 15,000 people in Boondall, north of Brisbane.(Provided: State Library of Queensland)

Like the offer for Brisbane 2032, many sites for 1992 were already under construction.

“The offer was to arrive in a city that already had a lot of infrastructure,” Ms. Hamilton said.

“Because we had a very successful Commonwealth Games in 1982, it felt like we already had a lot of venues and facilities.”

Ring bells? It should be, as it was also one of the main selling points of Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s final address to the IOC at Tokyo 2020.

Cutting costs for host cities has been a priority for the IOC and has helped Queensland secure Australia’s third Olympics after Sydney 2000 and Melbourne in 1956.

Map of the zones imagined for the 1992 Olympic Games in Brisbane.
The 1992 Olympics reportedly divided Brisbane into four zones for various sporting events.(Provided: State Library of Queensland)

What never materialized, however, was the transformation of Boondall, a northern suburb of Brisbane, which would have seen an athlete village built to house 15,000 competitors and officials.

The artists’ impressions show that the village would even have had its own marina and several training facilities, including an aquatic and hockey center built nearby.

The so-called Zone 1 was based around the city center with media facilities at South Bank.

Several sports, including tennis, boxing, soccer and water polo, were reportedly played at venues, such as Lang Park, in the area.

Athletes and officials were reportedly based in Boondall in Zone 2.

One of the benefits of this at the time was the recent completion of the Gateway Bridge in January 1986.

Delegates told the IOC that this would allow athletes to be within 20 kilometers or 30 minutes of all venues due to this new infrastructure.

Swimming, weightlifting, badminton, cycling, judo and table tennis are all believed to have been practiced in Zone 3, based at the Sleeman Sports Complex in Chandler.

The Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Sports Center, which would have been Zone 3, was to host the opening and closing ceremonies and could have accommodated up to 95,000 people with temporary stands.


The Olympic candidacy as a “schmooze” electoral campaign

The IOC has since streamlined the voting process, but in 1986 becoming an Olympic host was more like an election campaign.

IOC delegates would travel and visit potential host cities, which in turn would attempt to “win” their vote.

A woman looks at papers on a 1992 Olympic bid in Brisbane.
Robyn Hamilton examines historic promotional material for games that never took place in 1992.(ABC News: Mark Leonardi)

Former mayor Sallyanne Atkinson has traveled the world and was the face of Brisbane’s 1992 candidacy, which even involved a TV commercial and the song “Brisbane Is Ready”, performed by local artists.

“When IOC members came to visit Brisbane, they always wanted to go to Lone Pine and cuddle a koala,” she said.

“In fact, a few times we had the koalas come to town hall.

“Schmooze is a really good word because that’s what it was.”

She described being one of the last six contenders for the 1992 Games as “much more relaxed and informal” than the process these days.

“There were parties organized by different cities visiting, and we all went to everyone’s city,” Ms. Atkinson said.

Sallyanne Atkinson stands in a hallway of a Cabarita Beach house.
Former Brisbane Mayor Sallyanne Atkinson said the Olympic bid process once involved attending parties in several major cities around the world.(ABC News: Tom Forbes)

This included a final visit to the IOC in Switzerland, where Ms Atkinson recalled realizing Barcelona were clearly the favorites to host 1992.

“I used to tell the IOC members, you know in Australia we have a very famous horse race called the Melbourne Cup and the favorite never wins, so you know we always have a chance” , she said.

Either way, she saw the process as a wonderful marketing opportunity for Brisbane.

Articles on a 1992 Olympic bid in Brisbane.
Safety and security are key factors in choosing an Olympic city.(ABC News: Mark Leonardi)

Lessons from an Olympic defeat

In the end, Brisbane clinched third place in the 1992 Games vote behind Barcelona and Paris – all three have since won host rights.

Ms Atkinson also led a campaign to have Brisbane run again for the 1996 Olympics, but Australia instead elected Melbourne as their preferred host, which ultimately finished fourth in the votes behind Atlanta, Athens and Toronto.

Ms Atkinson was not directly involved in the most recent candidacy, but can draw many comparisons to her efforts over 30 years ago.

“The fact that Brisbane is warm and friendly, and that’s the spirit of Olympism, it’s about bringing people together, especially young people,” she said.

Robyn Hamilton of the State Library also noticed the same ethics in the archived documents.

“A sunny state, a river city, a beautiful, safe and secure place to come,” Ms. Hamilton said.


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