Beyond the Games: creating an Olympic legacy for SEQ

On the twentieth anniversary of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games there was much reflection on legacy – both tangible and intangible. 

The intangibles included the pride that Australia felt in delivering a well-organised and safe Games, and the happy memories we now share of golden days spent in the world’s spotlight. The tangibles are mostly questions of urban renewal and placemaking − the remediation of the Sydney Olympic Park site, and the flow-on benefits for adjacent suburbs.


From Games venue to community facility

There is still debate about how well the Games’ precinct transitioned from a major event space to a bustling urban community. And the role that urban design and planning had to play in that. It illustrates that the development industry has a key role to play in ensuring preparations for Brisbane 2032 create a fantastic legacy for Queensland.

Legacy is no longer a nice to have.

In 2003, it was incorporated into the Olympic Charter in an effort to reign in ballooning costs, avoid ‘white elephant’ infrastructure, and improve the economic and environmental sustainability of the Olympics. 

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has established a ‘new norm’ which seeks to achieve: ‘cost efficiencies without compromising the Olympic experience. …opportunities to reduce venue sizes, rethink transport options, optimise existing infrastructure and reuse the field of play for various sports.

The Brisbane 2032 bid and plans are based on these principles. In addition to being ‘climate positive’ the Games’ venues and accommodation will be woven into the existing urban fabric of South East Queensland.  

This gives us a head start in managing costs and avoiding post-Games challenges. And we also have the benefit of understanding what went well, and what we would change from both the Sydney Olympics and Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. 

Lessons from Expo 88

So, how do we create an amazing legacy for Queensland from the Brisbane 2032 Olympics? I think that in identifying what we want from the Games and what we aspire to be as a region, we need to look back to Expo 88.

Expo 88 is recognised as an event that fundamentally changed Brisbane both physically and culturally. 

Its legacy has been immense. And we should aspire to creating the same level of positive change – change felt decades on – for Brisbane 2032. 

The renewal of South Brisbane and creation of South Bank were important physical changes, but Expo 88 also changed how people in Brisbane lived, and the identity of the city.

A 2018 Bureau International des Expositions case study describes how despite initial scepticism, Expo 88 was a huge success that demonstrated that Brisbane could do great things on a world stage. The event was loved by the local community, and years later the experience as a host city is viewed with universal positivity.

Five key lessons

The case study’s authors identify five key lessons from Expo 88 for cities undertaking mega events:

  1. Mega events don’t have to be a financial black hole.
  2. Temporary events can change ‘public expectations of urban space - which can lead to permanent changes to the cityscape.
  3. It is okay for legacy plans to change in response to new information.
  4. Timing is important – Brisbane was ripe for change and needed a catalyst like Expo to make it happen.
  5. To appeal to tourists, create something that locals will love. Tourists want authentic local experiences.

These lessons point to exciting opportunities for Brisbane 2032. The Games can be a catalyst for creating a rich cultural, physical and social legacy for South East Queensland.

Through them, we can reimagine how we achieve our sustainability goals, house our population, progress reconciliation, bring our community together, and much more.

Need support with planning in South East Queensland? Get in touch with Joanne Cousins

Joanne Cousins

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