We need this ray of hope on our distant horizon – today is not a day for naysayers

The greatest legacy of the 2032 Olympics will not be found in the stadiums or playing fields – but throughout our community, writes Madonna King

Jul 22, 2021, updated Jul 22, 2021
Sydney Olympic Volunteers at their 10-year reunion, their uniforms a prized possession. Volunteerism and community spirit will be one of the great spin-offs of the Brisbane 2032 Games (Image: AOC)

Sydney Olympic Volunteers at their 10-year reunion, their uniforms a prized possession. Volunteerism and community spirit will be one of the great spin-offs of the Brisbane 2032 Games (Image: AOC)

When did we become so mean?

Brisbane is declared the host city for the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and the immediate and loud response is to whinge and complain?

“A vanity project.” “An excessive waste of money.” “An ego boost.” “Wasn’t Queensland the only bid?”

Yes, thousands celebrated our victory in Southbank and in homes across the State last night – but the noisy protests threatened to swamp that, in minutes.

Just take, for example, the response to Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, after she took to Twitter to confirm the torch was coming to Brisbane.

“A waste of money and resources.’’

“Just Queensland is it? Not Australia?’’ So will it be just the Queensland flag at the opening ceremony?’’

“Brisbane makes Florida look cultured. Why would you want this burden?’’

“Will the Queensland taxpayer foot the bill for these games, or will the rest of the-country have to chip in?’’

“Will Australians be allowed to come home by then to watch.’’

Now maybe social media attracts the grumpy. But if we ever needed a focus, and a reason to celebrate, this is it.

Perhaps many of those whinging today might not remember the 2000 Sydney Olympics, or even that moment seven years earlier when then International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch declared the Games would be coming Down Under.

John Fahey, then the NSW Premier, was in Monte Carlo for the announcement. When Sydney was declared the winner, he leapt out of his seat and hugged Rod McGeoch, who had steered the bid to victory.

Fahey died last year, but photographs of that gold medal leap crossed the globe; a moment in time above politics and sport and most other things we were doing on that day in September, 1993.

Almost 30 years later, Palaszczuk was slightly less athletic and exuberant as Brisbane was declared the victor. And we might even have been the only bidder. But who cares?

That doesn’t change the outcome. The Games are coming to Australia. And what a marvellous opportunity to put Brisbane, Australia, on the international map.

Paris in 2024. Los Angeles in 2028. And Brisbane in 2032.

Yes, it’s 11 years away, but if we are clever we will use that time to prepare and plan a legacy that is life-long.

Participation in sport will grow, from today, on tennis courts and running tracks and swimming pools.

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Children, still in primary school, will dare to dream of competing in front of a home crowd. Others will perform at Opening and Closing ceremonies, reminding millions and millions watching around the world that the Games are not only an elite sporting event.

The underperforming property markets on the Gold and Sunshine States will get the boost they need, and Brisbane might, too, lose its moniker as the poor cousin to Sydney and Melbourne.

Businesses will grow. Schools across the nation will develop curriculums around the Games. And we’ll almost all get the chance to work on the Olympics, or volunteer, or sit in the stands and barrack home an Australian.

So let the naysayers have their day. Most of us need this news. A glimpse of gold, promising a swag more. A focus on the future. A big blue sky of opportunity.

Perhaps we can talk more about this now, not the pandemic that is robbing so many Australians of time spent with those they love.

In 2032, Down Under, records will be broken. Sporting careers made and lost. But some of the biggest wins will take place off-track.

Volunteerism was the real legacy left by the Sydney Games. An army of men and women from across the country who became ambassadors for both Sydney and the host nation.

Their uniforms stood out. So did their smiles. They showcased spirit and generosity and the knowledge needed for visitors to remember forever two weeks in September, 2000.

It became the friendly games, with strangers swapping phone numbers and stories in lifts, and on buses and trains to venues across the city.

Friendships were made for life. But so, too, was a newfound commitment, across the nation, to give back to the community.

The 2000 Games gifted Australia with memories for life. But it also wove into the national fabric a sense of community that we now see each time a natural disaster strikes, or a stranger needs a hand.

It’s a legacy worth gold. What should ours be?

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