Features Australia

Brisbane wins Gold in the hyperbole stakes

More bread and circuses as the Olympics head to Queensland

31 July 2021

9:00 AM

31 July 2021

9:00 AM

There were two old codgers on the golf course. On the first hole, Bob tells Bill that he’d just won a bronze medal at the Masters’ games. The two play on.

On the second hole, Bill asks Bob how many contestants were in his event. Bob replies: three.

In the case of Brisbane securing the right to host the 2032 summer Olympic and Paralympic Games, the odds were even better. Brisbane (and the roped in federal government) was the only bidder and the games were awarded to Brisbane – go figure.

The idea that the Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, had to fly to Toyko to ensure that the bid for the Olympics would succeed was complete theatre, engineered by the shady International Olympic Committee.

That various members of our local media would fall for this ruse – and write tortuous, boring fairytales about how our bid was not necessarily in the bag – tells us a lot.

To listen to the hapless federal Sports Minister, Richard Colbeck (who also travelled to Tokyo, of course) jabber on about the possibility that the IOC could have knocked back Brisbane’s bid was truly nauseating. Just ‘fess up, mate: it’s one of the biggest gravy trains in the world and you want to hop on.

Mind you, the IOC doesn’t leave much to chance. Having a cadre of sympathetic journalists goes with the territory. And just to reinforce who is really in charge – hint, definitely not the Queensland Premier – we had the perpetual president of the Australian Olympic Committee commanding her to attend the (utterly vacuous) opening ceremony.

No bullying, according to the sycophantic journalists; it was just a bit of a joke (sure). Annastacia needed to learn about the intricacies of the Olympics movement and witness an opening ceremony that will cost Queensland and Australian taxpayers $100 million in 2032. It was self-evident, even though she had assured the good burghers of Queensland that she would not be attending any events. Yep, bread and circuses don’t come cheap, bearing in mind that an expensive opening ceremony is not strictly necessary for the sporting events to take place. Of course, the cost of the opening ceremony is small beer when it comes to the overall cost of staging the event.

Don’t you just love the Queensland premier telling us that $5 billion – the provisional estimate for staging the Olympics – is ‘not a huge amount’. In fact, she claims that the whole event will be ‘cost neutral’. Pull the other one.

Needless to say, the $5 billion figure is a total fiction, with at least two major fudge factors. Is the $5 billion just Queensland’s contribution? (Recall that the feds are going 50/50 with Queensland.) And does the $5 billion also include the additional spending required to put the games on, such as the upgraded Gabba stadium, a new stadium, the athletes’ village, new transport links, etc.?

Given that another figure of $11 billion is being bandied about, who knows what the real cost will be for Brisbane’s one-horse race win in securing the 2032 Olympics. Ms Paluszczuk also seemed to forget the 50/50 bit when she declared that ‘it was a victory for every single Queenslander’. (I guess that makes the rest of us complete mugs.)

Now given Queensland’s parlous fiscal position – something that has developed over the years since Peter Beattie was in charge – you might have thought the state government would think twice about bidding for a three-week sporting event that has definitely lost its sheen over the years. (Doping, cheating, political interference, misogyny, way too many sports: to name just a few negatives.)

Queensland was the first state to lose its AAA credit rating and its government debt now exceeds $100 billion, which is the highest per capita level of all the states.

Judged by virtually all previous Olympics, the final cost will end up much higher than the original estimate. Who can forget poor old Montreal where the cost overrun was more than 700 per cent and it took three decades to pay off? Both Athens and Rio were financial disasters.

The London Olympics cost some $15 billion, three-quarters higher than originally expected. And poor old Japan is being lumbered with a cost for staging this year’s Olympics at least three times the original estimate – and possibly more.

But, it’s OK, because the IOC regards ‘sustainability and reuse’ as the central criteria for judging bids these days. But given that there was only one bid – ours – the committee could have used any criteria it wanted and come up with the same result. As long as the obligatory glad handing and perks for the IOC members of that crooked body were included.

I also love the estimates of the economic benefits that will flow from the Brisbane Olympics made by hired gun consultants working on the instruction of coming up with really big numbers. They will deliver $17.6 billion of national economic (and social) benefits and $8 billion for Queensland, according to KPMG. What you might ask are social benefits? They are included to make the numbers look bigger.

But according to Ted O’Brien, federal member for Fairfax and the prime minister’s representative for the Brisbane Olympic bid, ‘hosting the Games will see a decade-long runway paved in green and gold all the way to 2032. It will not only inject billions into the economy, it will also create around 120,000 new jobs, including 90,000 jobs for Queenslanders. Local companies and businesses right across Queensland should take the opportunities to contribute to the Games’.

What do you say, apart from recommending that Ted return to marketing? The figure of 120,000 is clearly plucked out of the air (a big number, good) and note Ted’s excessive attention to Queensland. Shouldn’t the other states be getting a bigger look-in?

I particularly love Ted’s assertion that ‘the Olympics is above politics’. Mate, it’s all about politics and if you don’t understand that, you might even find it hard to earn a buck in marketing.

One thing for certain about Brisbane’s winning Olympic bid is that the flow of extreme hyperbole has only just begun. ‘A huge win for Team Australia’. ‘A thumbs-up for a sports-loving nation’. ‘It signifies hope’. ‘A coronation of Brisbane’.

If there was an Olympic medal for flowery overstatement, our newspaper leader writers would be claiming bronze, silver and gold.

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