Olympians urge rethink over Brisbane stadium ’embarrassment’

QSAC stadium in Queensland

Featured image credit: QSAC

A group of prominent Australian Olympians have issued an open letter urging a rethink on the main stadium to be used for the Brisbane Games in 2032.

Champion swimmer Grant Hackett, who won gold in Sydney and Athens, features among a group of celebrated athletes urging the Queensland Government, led by premier Steven Miles, to follow recommendations within the Quirk review to build a state-of-the-art stadium. The 2032 main venue is instead to be the Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre (QSAC), which will be 50 years old by the time of the Games and only have a capacity of 40,000 even with the addition of temporary seating.

The group, which also includes gold medal-winning hurdler Sally Pearson and dual-gold medallist Leisel Jones, said the choice of QSAC would prove to be “an embarrassment” for the region in front of a global audience.

“We, the undersigned, representing current and former Queensland Olympians and Paralympians, implore you to revisit your decision to host the 2032 Olympics and Paralympics events at the current Queensland Sport and Athletic Centre at Nathan,” the athletes wrote.

“While we understand that you want to get the best value for taxpayers out of the Games, we do not believe that the QSAC site represents that, not just financially but also in terms of a legacy for Brisbane and Queensland. And frankly, a main stadium with a capacity of only 40,000 would be an embarrassment which in no way would represent the go-ahead spirit of Queensland.

“Also, the QSAC facility is the nursery of athletics in this state, and any disruption to the site could only hurt our performance in our home Games. We all remember the magnificent event that Sydney put on in 2000. Queensland deserves something equally spectacular, without a centrepiece that would reek of compromise. It’s not too late to change your mind, Mr Miles.”

Smallest Olympic stadium since 1928

The Quirk report, prepared by former Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk, recommended building a state-of-the-art stadium in the Victoria Park grasslands while decommissioning the Gabba, which is nearing the end of its viability and needs an extensive overhaul.

However, the Miles administration said it would instead upgrade QSAC, which was built for the 1982 Commonwealth Games, as it cited budgetary constraints. It would be the smallest host stadium since Amsterdam in 1928.

The Queensland Government also plans to contribute $1bn to upgrading the Gabba and Suncorp Stadium. However, critics say the injection of funds into the former will prove to be only a band-aid solution and that further work will be required after the Olympics.

Premier Miles ‘can’t justify spending billions’

Responding to the athletes earlier today (Tuesday), Miles said that while he understood the stance of the athletes, his priority was the citizens of Queensland.

“They’re entitled to their opinions, but we listen to Queenslanders. They’re talking to me about their hospital, about their school, about how hard they’re finding it to make ends meet,” the Courier-Mail reported.

“When Queensland is facing those kinds of day to day challenges, I can’t justify spending billions more on stadiums, no matter how many swimmers ask me.”

The other signatories to the letter are Jon Sieben, Brooke Hanson, Geoff Huegill, Curtis McGrath, Monique Murphy, Karni Liddell, Brenton Rickard, Melanie Wright, Chris Wright and Andrew Baildon.

The IOC approved Brisbane as the host of the 2032 Olympics back in July 2021. At the time, redeveloping The Gabba was expected to cost A$1bn, but this figure rose to A$2.7bn as the Australian and Queensland governments last February unveiled a A$7bn funding agreement to overhaul the state’s sporting infrastructure ahead of the Games. The independent review stated that the cost of the rebuild had increased further to more than A$3bn.

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