What lessons can Brisbane learn from the Paris Olympics?

From challenges to innovations, what lessons can Brisbane learn from the Paris Olympics?
Tuesday 9 July 2024

After two COVID-affected Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2021 (summer) and Beijing in 2022 (winter), the Paris Games should see a return to normalcy.

With no health-related restrictions, tourists and spectators will be there in droves. Athletes will be able to mix in the city rather than stay locked down in the Olympic Village.

The City of Lights promises plenty to do and a buzzing atmosphere. There will be 32 sports and 329 events taking place, several large fan zones and numerous tourist sites in this enchanting and famous world-class city.

Hospitality is guaranteed to be in full swing, accentuated by French “joi de vivre”.

So, what lessons can Brisbane learn eight years ahead of hosting the 2032 Games?

Brisbane is in the early stages of planning for the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Getting ready for Brisbane

Brisbane will have its challenges trying to emulate Paris but has the potential to bring a distinctive “Aussie slant” to the Olympics.

Here are some of the changes that may take place.

New sports: Breakdancing will be a new addition in Paris. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) sets out policies and guidelines that determine which sports can be added to the portfolio.

However, a host city’s organising committee can recommend new sports to be approved for their games. Under this arrangement, the Los Angeles games added squash, flag football, lacrosse, cricket and baseball/softball to the existing 27 core sports.

Brisbane can have the same influence and is likely to keep most of the 2028 additions and may look to add sports such as surf lifesaving, coastal rowing, netball, lawn bowls or even pickleball.

An enhanced spectator experience: About 10 million tickets will be available in Paris for spectators who have been provided with designated mobile applications and (online) information links.

There are lots of special hospitality options including sites at Nations Park, Champions Park as well as 33 “party houses” the public can visit either free or at a modest cost – usually a lot less than sport tickets.

Most of these venues have been set up by countries’ National Olympic Committees but there are others like Pride House and one called the AICO House for Olympic Collectors.

Surprisingly, Australia does not have an Olympic House, an omission that could change for future Olympics.

Tourism boost: The 2024 Paris games are set to increase tourism spending by up to A$6.5 billion. Likewise, the Brisbane games can deliver a similar boost for Australia – currently ranked the fifth best tourism destination in the world.

TV/media initiatives: There will be unprecedented television, streaming and media coverage of the Paris games around the globe. It will likely set records as the most viewed Olympics of all time. This could expand further by 2032 with creative new platforms and ways to follow the events.

Opening ceremonies: Paris is planning unique opening ceremonies, initially using the Seine River for a 90+ boat cavalcade with up to 300,000 spectators able to watch. It will then move to the Trocadero where the remaining elements of the Olympic protocol take place.

Depending on how well this is received, the Brisbane River is a possibility to be used in a similar vein.

Security, terrorism, cyber hacking, water pollution, social and political unrest: How will the French handle a host of key issues which threaten to disrupt or ruin the event?

As France sits in the busy European corridor, and with nearby international problems in the Ukraine and Gaza, there could be major security issues.

Even though Australia is a remote island continent far removed from current hot spots, new problems could emerge by 2032.

Extreme weather conditions: Extreme heat, which has been predicted for Paris in a Rings of Fire Report, can lead to schedule problems and athlete health concerns. In contrast, the Brisbane games will take place in the Australian winter months, which are not traditionally affected by extremely hot temperatures, excessive rain, storms or cyclones.

Doping issues and controversies: Although there will be strict drug testing in Paris, athletes may still get caught cheating and consequently banned. This might even occur post-games as test protocols get more sophisticated.

A current controversy highlights this – Chinese athletes who were not banned at the Tokyo 2021 games by the World Anti-Doping Agency after testing positive before those games commenced.

Doping remains a thorn in the side for upcoming Olympics, including Brisbane in 2032.

Banned Olympic countries and cyber hacking retaliation: For Paris, Russia and Belarus cannot send their national teams except as individual neutral athletes (with no flags or marching in the ceremonies).

There are strong indications Russia may retaliate and engage in cyber hacking at the 2024 games.

What will be the case a long eight years from now? Could there still be bans on certain nations and cyber issues Brisbane organisers will need to deal with?

Iconic venues with tradition and history: Paris is using many iconic venues such as beach volleyball being held near the Eiffel Tower and equestrian at the Palace of Versailles.

Brisbane can try to create an Aussie theme emphasising a “sun and beach culture”. With both the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast serving as regional sites, the Sunshine State can promote this as a distinctive feature.

Aussie success at the Summer Games: As a very successful Olympic nation (11th overall), predictions are for Australia to finish fifth on the medal table in Paris with around 50 medals.

Host nations improve in the vast majority of cases on previous games so by 2032 Australia could reach third place, tying the best ever placement achieved in Melbourne in 1956.

The current state of play for the Brisbane games

Planning is well under way for the 2032 games with the establishment of the Brisbane Organising Committee for the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games as well as the Brisbane 2032 Coordination Office. The vast majority of sport venues, the four athletes’ villages and transport upgrades have also been confirmed.

One hiccup is a disagreement over the decision not to build a new state-of-the-art stadium, and instead use existing ones. This decision was made by the Queensland government and endorsed by the IOC and the AOC.

An October 2024 state election could see this situation change as several proponents are keen to have a new stadium.

Most Queenslanders remain in favour of hosting the games but others have expressed concerns about the event’s impact on finances, infrastructure and daily life.

With eight years to go, there is plenty of time to sort out issues and also take lessons from the Paris games, as well as Los Angeles four years later.

Both Melbourne in 1956 (often referred to as the “Friendly Games”) and Sydney in 2000 (labelled the best Games ever by then IOC President Juan Samaranch) hosted extremely successful Olympics.

Brisbane should be aiming to follow suit.

Richard Baka, Honorary Professor, School of Kinesiology, Western University, London, Canada; Adjunct Fellow, Olympic Scholar and Co-Director of the Olympic and Paralympic Research Centre, Institute for Health and Sport, Victoria University and H. Björn Galjaardt, PhD Candidate, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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