Australia’s fringe populist One Nation party continues to fuel opposition to the nation’s dream of hosting its third Olympics with the launch of an online petition against the Queensland 2032 Olympic Games bid.
The official petition, posted by Queensland’s only elected One Nation member of parliament Stephen Andrews, calls for the end of the bid and will force a parliamentary debate on the issue if 10,000 signatures are collected. Since Friday, over 2400 qualifying state residents have signed up.
Residents can add their names to the petition until March 30.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has already dismissed the petition as “nonsense” according to the Brisbane Times, after the bid received government support at all levels and the possible Games was projected to be revenue neutral and able to generate AUD $10 billion for the tourism economy.
One Nation leader Senator Pauline Hanson launched the opposition campaign last month by commissioning more than 50 bright orange billboards across the state with the message 2032 Brisbane Olympics, regional Queensland says NO”.
Last year public opinion polls showed minimal opposition to the project.
“This is NOT the time for frivolities and political grand-standing, when scarce public funds should be directed towards essential services and long term infrastructure which will provide widespread economic benefits and permanent jobs,” the petition reads.
“Ordinary people will benefit very little from hosting the Olympic Games.
“Regional Queensland was disadvantaged once again at the very time of natural disasters and the drought weighing heavily.”
The petition also claims that the average cost of the Games since 1960 has been $12.5 billion.
Late last year Palaszczuk and her delegation visited International Olympic Committee (IOC) headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland to meet with IOC President Thomas Bach to discuss as potential bid. In December the Parliament approved the bid and formal discussions with the IOC began, giving Australia a jump-start on any international rivals.
Queensland is already considered the front runner among possible bids from China, India, Germany, Indonesia, Spain and jointly between North and South Korea.
Olympic gold medalists Cathy Freeman and Cate Campbell are rumoured among possible project leaders who are expected to submit a formal bid to the IOC in July ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. A final host selection could be made as early as 2021, but no timetable has been set.
In 2017 a successful petition launched by an upstart opposition party in Hungary forced a referendum, spelling the end of the Budapest 2024 Summer Games bid. Elected leaders withdrew support for the project, stepping back from any political risks before the public vote could be held.
Hamburg in Germany was forced to drop its 2024 Games bid after an earlier lost referendum.
Calgary in Canada and Sion in Switzerland dropped bids for the 2026 Winter Games after voters rejected the opportunity. Politicians in Graz, Austria backed out of its 2026 bid after a petition there was to force a referendum.
In the past decade nine straight Summer and Winter Olympic bids have abandoned Olympic hosting dreams after losing public votes.
Recognizing the risks, last year IOC Vice President John Coates surprisingly announced that the IOC would encourage – and perhaps even require referendums from bids representing regions that show some opposition for the project, if it is a legally viable option.
Coates, an Australian who is also Chief of his National Olympic Committee, was the architect of the new reformed Olympic bid process rolled out and approved last June. He also said that he wouldn’t support a Queensland bid until transportation upgrades in the region were approved.
Palaszczuk and other supporters of the Queensland 2032 to be centred in state capital Brisbane have said that no referendum has been scheduled, or is required for Australia’s Olympic bid – the first since Sydney hosted the Games in 2000.