Olympics inquiry dissects legacy delays

A former Brisbane lord mayor says he can understand why people might believe the Queensland government is more focused on re-election rather than providing a post 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games legacy.

An inquiry into how prepared Australia is ahead of the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games will examine how the major event will leave a legacy of sporting infrastructure.

The senate inquiry was launched in the wake of former Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s decision to dump an independent infrastructure agency to oversee projects for the 2032 Games in favour of keeping it in-house.

The Coalition and Greens are heading the inquiry, which is holding a public hearing in Brisbane on Wednesday.

The special Senate inquiry will also examine how and where every taxpayer dollar is being spent on the major event.

Other terms of reference for the inquiry will also address the appropriateness of oversight and accountability measures and the impact on housing affordability.

Senator Anne Ruston said the inquiry would be looking at what opportunities are being missed because of delays in construction, despite Brisbane being named a host city in 2021.

“We had a runway into the Olympics and we’ve seem to have squandered that already in terms of time,” Senator Ruston said on Wednesday.

Mr Quirk, who was appointed the lead of the independent review of Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic venue infrastructure in January by Premier Steven Miles, was up first.

Mr Quirk’s role was to conduct a 60-day review of the legacy of the Games, in which he recommended a $3.4bn new stadium in inner-city Victoria Park.

His stadium option was put forward to replace the state government’s planned $2.7bn knockdown and rebuild of the Gabba cricket ground.

Ultimately Mr Miles endorsed a cheaper plan, opting to scrap the government’s original Gabba rebuild plan and instead use existing infrastructure.

Suncorp Stadium will be used for the opening and closing ceremonies and the Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre (QSAC) in Nathan for athletics.

QSAC, then QE2 stadium, hosted the Commonwealth Games in 1982 and is scheduled to be upgraded ahead of 2032.

Mr Quirk said the independent review he led had recommended the Victoria Park greenfield site over the Gabba rebuild because it was the “superior option”.

“Even with a full Gabba rebuild, we would not get a tier one stadium … competitive with other stadiums in Australia,” he said.

Senator Matt Canavan, who said he was a “conservative and a cricket lover”, said he had concerns the Gabba rebuild would lose its historical legacy.

When asked about whether the Queensland government was too focused on the October state elections than the Olympic legacy, Mr Quirk said he could understand why spending money on the Gabba rebuild or the Victoria Park option would seem as “extravagance when families are doing it tough”.

“Any observer would come to the conclusion that there is a fear of the cost of living crisis we’re living through at the moment is driving decisions that would not normally be made in the case,” Mr Quirk said.

But Mr Quirk said it was important people had something to look forward to and see that their city was evolving.

“Even during the Great Depression, people were looking for hope. They had a racehorse called Phar Lap that they looked to for hope.”

Despite the delays, Mr Quirk told the inquiry he believed while no work has been started in terms of construction, community groups will still be able to enjoy facilities before and after the Games.

“The recommendation all of the facilities will be available for community use whether before the games or after the games, depends on when they’re completed.

“They can have years of use of the facilities prior to the Games.

“We would see significant use of facilities before the Games. Even with the Victoria Park proposal, we would have seen cricket be used before the Games.

“There’s not reason some of those indoor sports centres can’t go out to market pretty soon.”

More to come.

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