Michael Pavitt

Brisbane feels like an excellent pick for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The Australian bid, as you probably know by now, was declared to be the preferred bidder for the Games earlier this week. This was hardly ground-breaking with the IOC and Queensland having had the appearance of partners for some time now.

The Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games proved again that Australia are dependable hosts for major events, with the multi-sport event taking place with minimum fuss and controversy.

Discussion earlier this week centred around the transparency of the process and the role of John Coates, given his role in the development of the new bid process, his IOC vice-presidential role and his leading voice for the Queensland bid as the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) President.

Clearly this is a process that has to improve moving forwards, as it frankly isn’t good enough for the IOC to say Coates did not take part in the IOC Executive Board discussions. Perception is everything.

The perception of the IOC has largely forced them into this bid process in the first place, with anti-Olympic campaigners having curtailed several potentially strong bids in recent years for both the Summer and Winter Games.

The IOC, I would argue, may have effectively countered the problem it was experiencing with the new process. While many have suggested the bid races of old served as good publicity for the IOC outside of Games-time, it can be argued that the publicity flipped in recent years.

The more public the bids and promises, the greater awareness an increasingly sceptical public had over the Games and its potential downsides, namely the costs. The narrative has shifted with social media clearly helping opposition groups to organise against bids, with Boston, Budapest and Calgary among the examples.

Brisbane was effectively confirmed as the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games host this week ©Getty Images
Brisbane was effectively confirmed as the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games host this week ©Getty Images

This is not to say the Queensland bid has been secret at all, with reports of feasibility studies and local press events having taken place in recent years.

A potential benefit of the new process is that it should stop the one upmanship of old bid races, which has often been accused of leading to officials overpromising and then underdelivering.

Instead, the IOC has talked up the new process as being part of efforts to work in partnership with host cities and regions, citing the use of existing venues with minimal new infrastructure being required for the Games. Los Angeles and the Queensland bid will be touted by the organisation as examples of this.

I would argue that the IOC now has very little excuse for costs not to be kept down for those two Games, with both effectively having been hand-selected, billed as having almost everything already in place and in the hands of regular organisers of sporting events.

The IOC itself noted that Brisbane and Queensland had been chosen to help provide security for the movement. The selections of Tokyo, Paris, Los Angeles and now Brisbane do seem relatively risk-averse choices, albeit the Japanese capital’s hosting has been impacted by COVID-19 and had already seen its budget skyrocketed.

The selections do raise the question over whether the Games is heading in the direction some have argued it should do, with a small, trusted group relied on to host the showpiece event.

While the IOC seems on fairly steady ground with France, the United States and Australia, there is a question over whether the organisation would feel comfortable awarding a Games to a first-time host or a developing nation nearly a decade prior to hosting.

Given the IOC has effectively awarded Los Angeles and Brisbane their Games with an 11-year lead in time, it seems unlikely the organisation is now going to park the bid process for a large part of this decade.

The hosting of Continental Games could become important in proving potential Olympic hosts are a safe pair of hands ©Getty Images
The hosting of Continental Games could become important in proving potential Olympic hosts are a safe pair of hands ©Getty Images

Are we really likely to see the IOC take a chance, as its membership did when selecting Rio 2016, to tie itself to potentially political peaks and troughs?

So are we now looking at safe picks over the universality of the Games with the likes of Africa, the Middle East and a return to South America now some way in the distance? Perhaps a conflict of pragmatism against the IOC’s ideals.

I do wonder whether Continental Games could have a role for developing nations in this process. 

The Games are viewed by many as a stepping stone for athletes on the path to the Olympics. To an extent the same applies for the cities, given how almost every recent event edition - barring Lima 2019 - concludes with the standard question about whether the host will now look to bid for the Games.

I would argue that there is a case for the IOC having greater involvement in the selection of continental hosts, with the Olympic Movement working with cities on helping to develop their long-term plans but to also develop long-term "safe bets" that the IOC could include as part of its new process.

Given we are now looking over a decade in advance, could the Continental Games offer a long-term pathway for aspiring hosts?

We will see in the future. It would be merely crystal ball gazing to look to 2036.