Brisbane Olympics organizers scrap plans for their 2032 centerpiece and reject new stadium idea

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Brisbane Olympics organizers have scrapped plans to demolish and rebuild an iconic cricket ground as the centerpiece of the 2032 Games while also rejecting a review panel’s recommendation for a new stadium in city parklands.

Queensland state’s Premier Steven Miles instead announced Monday he’d prefer to upgrade an existing rugby stadium close to downtown Brisbane to host the opening and closing ceremonies.

Miles called for an independent review of Olympic planning in January as backlash intensified against the tripling of the cost to redevelop the so-called Gabba stadium.

Brisbane’s former mayor Graham Quirk led a 60-day review which handed its findings to the Miles’ state government on Monday, two days after council elections across the state.

The review delivered 30 recommendations, the central feature being construction of a new 55,000-seat stadium at Victoria Park at a cost of 3.4 billion Australian dollars ($2.23 billion) instead of redeveloping the Gabba.

“I know that I said I’d do what the Quirk review recommended, but I cannot support the option they have landed on” regarding a new stadium, Miles told a news conference at Suncorp Stadium, the long-time home of the National Rugby League powerhouse Brisbane Broncos. “I ordered this review because I’d heard from Queenslanders that A$2.7 billion at the Gabba was too much, so I know that for Queenslanders A$3.4 billion at Victoria Park will be too much, so I’m ruling that out.”

He said the option to upgrade Suncorp Stadium, which is walking distance of multiple train stations and the city, would make it ideal to host the opening and closing ceremonies for the Olympics.

His government also plans to upgrade another existing stadium in the city’s south to host track and field. The stadium, now known as the Queensland Sport and Athletics Center, was the main venue for the 1982 Commonwealth Games.

The Australian Broadcasting Corp reported the total cost to refurbish those two stadiums would be A$1 billion ($66 million). Organizers still need to finalize where an indoor stadium will be built to host swimming during the Olympics and later be converted into an indoor arena and concert venue.

Quirk earlier told the ABC that the cost to build a new stadium on the former council-owned golf course “is likely to be marginally more” than the A$3 billion ($2 billion) for the full Gabba rebuild but “with better operational efficiencies and outcomes that would deliver a true international standard venue.”

“If a full Gabba rebuild was to occur, you still don’t end up with a top-level tier one stadium because of the fact that it’s very limited by space, and for that reason, that’s where we landed on Victoria Park,” he said Monday on ABC radio. “This is about building what is needed, and a legacy for the people of Queensland.”

Debate over the plan to demolish and rebuild the existing stadium in the suburb of Woolloongabba, originally built in 1895 and most recently redeveloped in 2005, has raged since the plan was confirmed in November.

Australian Olympic Committee president Ian Chesterman last month indicated he didn’t like the idea of rebuilding an aging stadium as one of its centerpiece venues for the 2032 Games.

International Olympic Committee vice-president John Coates, who was instrumental in helping secure the Summer Games for Australia’s third-largest city, also offered alternatives to the Gabba.

“We’ve put it to the review committee we should abandon the Gabba and we should look for another site for the athletics,” Coates told local media last month.

Coates proposed the opening ceremony be held at 52,000-seat Suncorp Stadium, formerly known as Lang Park, and track and field at the 48,000-capacity QSAC facility under IOC’s so-called “New Norm” concept that aim to avoid cost blowouts for host cities.

The Miles government apparently has taken that advice, despite the Quirk review noting the transport and logistics issues meant “QSAC Stadium does not represent value for money.”

Under the original bid plans, the Queensland state government unveiled a 2.7 billion Australian dollar ($1.7 billion) Gabba rebuild that would have forced cricket and the Brisbane Lions Australian Rules Football team to relocate from 2025 to 2030.

Critics pointed to escalating costs after the plan’s price tag blew out to almost three times the original estimate in the Olympic bid.

Brisbane won the 2032 hosting rights in July 2021, when the bid was led by state Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. The long-standing premier quit in December amid falling opinion polls and was replaced by her former deputy Miles, who instigated the Olympics review.


AP Olympics:

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