Brisbane in Australia will likely become host city for the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board on Wednesday unanimously agreed to move the Queensland State bid to a ‘targeted dialogue’ phase.
By accepting the recommendation made by the IOC’s Future Host Summer Commission, the Executive Board agreed to give Australia’s bid exclusive negotiating rights to host the 2032 edition as a preferred candidate, meaning as many as eight other interested nations will now be left behind. The intention, under this new process introduced in 2019, is to have the preferred candidate first vetted, then rubber-stamped by a full IOC Session to install it as the official host of the Games.
The vetting will include a response to a technical questionnaire and a similar level of study and analysis that went into previous bids, IOC Executive Director Christophe Dubi told reporters.
The Commission will report back to the Executive Board on the progress of the targeted dialog with Australia, and if all the requirements are met the proposed election of Brisbane will be sent to the Session. It is estimated that the Brisbane 2032 Olympic bid will sign the host city contract as early as later this year, or sometime next year.
Reports emerged Tuesday that the Future Host Commission chaired by Kristin Kloster Aasen of Norway has been most impressed by Australia’s bid, leading up to the recommendation. On Wednesday she said Brisbane’s bid offered the stability that the IOC needs during the pandemic and beyond, and the IOC decided to “seize the moment.”
She added that Brisbane presents a “very advanced Games concept, which is fully aligned with Olympic Agenda 2020 and using 80 to 90 per cent existing or temporary venues.”
A feasibility assessment provided by the commission also pointed to the region’s experience, climate conditions, existing and planned transport infrastructure and the plan’s alignment with long-term planning strategies as further reasons to move forward with Australia.
The news will come as a disappointment to the other bids that have recently emerged, or that have already been in the works for years. Budapest in Hungary launched a bid just last month, plans from Chengdu and Chongqing in China emerged three months ago and Doha in Qatar and Istanbul in Turkey announced interest last summer. Bids from Jakarta in Indonesia, India, the Netherlands and a joint project from Unified Korea’s Seoul and Pyongyang launched earlier.
A project from Germany dropped out of the running last month, according to Kloster Aasen.
These bids will now be forced to refocus on a Games further in the future, or standby in the event negotiations with Australia dissolve.
Kloster Aaasen explained “our recommendation is very much for them to stay in the continuous dialogue.”
She said that the level of each interested bid “…varies from very well developed to not so well developed projects but I think similar for all of them is that they have an enthusiastic approach to the future and I think that comes from the new approach.”
The timing of the announcement is unusual with over eleven years still to go until a possible opening ceremony, and while the IOC struggles to organize the postponed Tokyo 2020 Games and the Beijing 2022 Winter Games in the midst of the raging coronavirus pandemic. The new Olympic bid process eliminated strict deadlines, open evaluations and shortlists to instead put the decision making in the hands of the few members of the Future Host Commissions and the IOC Executive Board.
Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) President and IOC Vice President John Coates was one of the main architects behind the bid process and has become the driving force behind his nation’s campaign to host the 2032 Games. With decisions now being made mostly behind closed doors, Wednesday’s decision raises more questions than it gives answers.
Wednesday’s announcement was clearly welcomed by Coates, who was excluded from the Executive Board vote to avoid conflict of interest, but the Vice President stopped short of taking a victory lap.
“This is an important next step in an ongoing dialogue with the Future Host Commission,” he said.
“We are very clear that we must continue to work hard in outlining our vision for a successful Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2032.”
When asked by GamesBids.com, IOC President Thomas Bach said the new behind-closed-doors process was necessary to avoid the excessive lobbying and competitiveness in the past that left losing cities bitter and unwilling to bid again.
He said the new model is consistent with other businesses where they “…avoid this kind of situation where one candidate is attacking another.”
“This was not the best procedure and neither for the future of the Games nor for the reputation of the IOC,” he told GamesBids.com.
Brisbane’s bid has always been considered the favorite among rivals since it launched serious interest in 2019 and received support from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. A team led by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk visited President Bach at his Lausanne headquarters late 2019 and an official bid was launched that December. In January 2020 a bid committee was formed and work began on a file that had been planned for submission in July ahead of the opening of the Tokyo 2020 Games.
While the project has received widespread support from the public, political opponents have called for the cancellation of the bid or a referendum. In 2019 Coates said that as part of the candidate vetting process, referendums may be required to gauge public sentiment.
Once the pandemic struck and Tokyo 2020 postponed, Palaszczuk paused the project to instead focus on fighting the COVID-19 health and economic crisis. The project was reactivated last December and positioned as an opportunity for post-pandemic economic recovery. Bach and Morrison met in person in Tokyo later in the month to discuss plans.
Australia has hosted the Games twice, in Sydney in 2000 and Melbourne in 1956.
After the rearranged Tokyo 2020 Games this summer, the next editions will be staged in Paris in 2024 and Los Angeles in 2028.
A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of GamesBids.com as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. Robert Livingstone is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians.