— Published 3 July 2023

Brisbane 2032, a coin with two faces

Things are changing in the Olympic movement. Notions of time and space, in particular, no longer have the same meaning. The Brisbane 2032 Games are the most spectacular illustration of this.

The IOC had already shaken things up by naming Queensland’s capital city in 2021, more than eleven years ahead of schedule. A record that will be difficult to break. Last week, the Olympic body continued in the same direction, organizing the first meeting of the Brisbane 2032 Games Coordination Commission more than nine years before the event (photo above).

And, surprise, by choosing Lausanne as the setting for this inaugural meeting between IOC representatives and Australian leaders. Against all expectations, Brisbane 2032 Chairman Andrew Liveris and CEO Cindy Hook had to make the trip to Switzerland. Eight hours time difference from Australia’s east coast.

With nine years to go before the event, and the Olympic movement yet to celebrate the ever-so-solemn date of D – 1 year to Paris 2024, what do we know about Brisbane 2032? Curiously, a lot. Andrew Liveris and Cindy Cook opened their files last week at an online press conference organized from the Olympic House in Lausanne. Here are the first lessons.

Brisbane 2032 consulted. When Andrew Liveris was appointed president of the organizing committee, he promised that he would devote the first few months to getting as many people behind the project as possible. Above all, to listen. The former CEO of the Dow Chemical Group kept his word.

We spoke to over 1,100 stakeholders with a connection to the Olympic and Paralympic Games, including athletes and para-athletes, the local community, First Nations, the IOC, the IPC, other Games organizing committees and representatives of the economic sector, he listed in front of the media. We also surveyed more than 2,500 people about their perceptions of Brisbane and our brand. Finally, we’ve already received over 14,000 ideas as part of the exchange sessions dedicated to the legacy of the Games.

Brisbane 2032 is wary of taking too long. Cindy Hook, the Managing Director, agreed: inheriting the Games so far in advance doesn’t only have advantages. “It’s a bit like a two-sided coin, suggested the American, who worked for Deloitte before joining the organizing committee. On the one hand, it’s a real blessing, because if you use this time effectively to make measured decisions, establish scenarios and plan them, it will be a real advantage. But on the downside, with the excitement of the Games in Brisbane and across Queensland, you can get caught up in doing too much, too soon, and making decisions you’ll end up regretting.

Brisbane 2032 wants to guard against the risks of corruption. The Tokyo 2020 Games scandal and the recent raids on the headquarters of the Paris 2024 OCOG have served as a reminder: the Games rarely escape corruption and conflicts of interest. Andrew Liveris knows this. The Australian explained: a rigorous fraud policy and code of conduct have already been put in place at the organizing committee. Compliance training has been given to its first directors. “We have to do it, he assured. If we don’t, then we have no business being there. We are subject to Queensland Government contracting standards.”

Brisbane 2032 will have to innovate. With nine years to go, the Queensland project is announcing a budget of A$5 billion, or around US$3.3 billion at current prices. The organizing committee has forecast commercial revenues of 1.7 billion US dollars (ticketing, partnerships, merchandising). Reasonable. But Andrew Liveris admits that Queensland remains a “small commercial market“, still little known in the rest of the world. “We’re going to have to find innovative ways of attracting sponsors,” he warns.

Brisbane 2032 will serve beer. Different country, different laws. Unlike the Paris 2024 Games, alcohol won’t just be served in hospitality areas at the Summer Games in 2032. The president of the organizing committee explained: “Local jurisdiction dictates what happens in the stadiums. And Australian law allows beer to be served. We will serve it, because we can.”

Brisbane 2032 isn’t thinking about the opening just yet. To a question from FrancsJeux about the prospect of Brisbane 2032 following in the footsteps of Paris 2024 and staging the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games right in the city, outside the stadium, Cindy Hook replied with a big laugh: “We’re nine years away from the deadline, we’re not thinking about that yet. Let’s wait and see how things go in Paris…

Not yet a reality, at least for the organizing committee. At Brisbane City Hall, however, the idea is already gaining ground. In an interview last October, the city’s deputy mayor, Krista Adams, told us: “I’m attracted by Paris 2024’s idea of moving the opening ceremony out of the stadium, onto the Seine, with 600,000 spectators. It’s fantastic. I’m convinced we could do the same thing in 2032 on the Brisbane River.