There are not many things Australians love more than sport.
With the COVID-19 pandemic occupying our minds for over 12 months, not to mention the past month or so amid lockdowns around the country, it is great to know a welcomed distraction is finally upon us – the Tokyo Summer Olympics.
For fans, the Olympics are a joyful festival of dizzying highs and painful lows; for athletes, a culmination of years of dedication, sacrifice and training.
But for host cities and nations, they are more than a sporting festival. They are an investment which can have lasting positive economic and social impacts, starting years before and continuing years after.
Sadly for Tokyo and Japan, the rewards will be smaller than otherwise due to the lack of crowds and associated spending.
For Australia, however, the Games today marked some big news: Brisbane taking out the honours as the official host of the 2032 Olympic Games.
After hosting the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, Queensland showed it can showcase the best of Australia in hosting major sporting tournaments, and will again benefit from hosting the Olympics.
In fact, it’s been estimated Australia will see upwards of $17 billion of economic and social benefits, with around $8bn of that flowing into Queensland. A sizable amount of this benefit will come in the form of indirect and social benefits, including through increased participation in sporting activities across the community and greater levels of volunteering.
In the lead up, there will be investment in new and upgraded infrastructure to support the hundreds of thousands of visitors that will enter the country before, during and after the event. Think athletes, trainers, media personnel, event staff, security, fans and other tourists.
Transport infrastructure will be upgraded to cope with this influx, which means better roads, public transport and airports. Accommodation facilities will also be built and upgraded by hotel chains and other providers, benefiting travellers for years to come. New stadiums and sporting facilities will be built and old ones refurbished, supporting Australian sport.
This investment boosts employment and increases economic growth. Jobs in the construction sector benefit largely in the lead up to the Games while jobs in other sectors – accommodation, tourism, retail, arts and recreation, and other services – benefit closer to the event, as well as during and afterwards.
As history shows, hosting major sporting events can provide real social and economic benefits.
In 2000, Sydney held what are considered by many to be “the best Olympic Games ever”. These Games boosted the city’s international profile and helped it attain its ‘international city’ status. In many ways, the Olympics put Sydney on the map. The Games were estimated to provide an economic boost of over $6bn for the economy.
Major infrastructure investments improved life for residents and continue to be used, such as the expanded Sydney Airport and rail link connecting the airport to the broader network.
The Commonwealth Games Federation found that the 2018 Gold Coast games provided the biggest economic boost for all Commonwealth games since 2002, creating the equivalent of at least 20,000 full time jobs and contributing more than $2.4 billion to the economy. The Melbourne games in 2006 were also a big success, creating the equivalent of more than 13,000 full time jobs and providing a net benefit of over $2 billion to the economy.
The 2032 Olympic Games are shaping up to be the first Summer Games in history to be held across multiple host cities.
This will spread the economic benefits.
New investments in infrastructure, including roads and public transport networks, can also be made across larger areas, benefiting more people. Tourism will increase across a wider region and accommodation providers will also be less overwhelmed with booking numbers beyond their capacity.
Critics argue that economic benefits are negated by cities spending on expensive infrastructure, which does not have much use after the Games. Holding the Games across multiple cities will allow existing infrastructure to be used, significantly reducing costs of hosting. The Queensland Premier has stated that as much as 85 per cent of the venues needed are already built, decreasing the risk of wasteful spending.
With lockdowns across several of our major cities, Australians will no doubt be ready to cheer our athletes on from their lounge rooms.
Let’s hope for plenty of “Gold, Gold, Gold” for our athletes in 2021, and further gains for Brisbane and Australia in 2032.