Olympians and Paralympians Challenge Venue Decision on QSAC in Mt Gravatt

Several prominent Olympians and Paralympians have written an open letter requesting a review of the decision to select the Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre (QSAC) in Mt Gravatt as the main venue for the 2032 Brisbane Olympics and Paralympics. 

They have criticised the decision, calling it “embarrassing” and insufficient for creating a lasting legacy.

The elite athletes, including Curtis McGrath, Sally Pearson, Grant Hackett, Curtis McGrath, Karni Liddell, Sally Pearson, Geoff Huegill, Leisel Jones, and Brenton Rickard, publicly voiced their dissatisfaction by highlighting the QSAC’s capacity limitations and lack of a sustainable legacy post-2032. 

Olympians and Paralympians Challenge Venue Decision on QSAC in Mt Gravatt
Photo Credit: SkyNews

Despite their strong opposition, Premier Steven Miles remains firm on not revisiting the decision. The athletes stressed how this would impact their training regimes and the broader athletic community.

Premier Miles justified his decision by prioritising other state needs such as healthcare and education over more substantial investments in sporting infrastructure. Infrastructure Minister Grace Grace acknowledged the challenges, particularly concerning transport to QSAC, with potential costs running as high as $1 billion.

Senate Inquiry Insights

A Senate inquiry into the 2032 Games’ legacy criticised the choice of QSAC, echoing athletes’ concerns about the venue’s inadequacies. The inquiry, led by figures like Senator Anne Ruston and former Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk, examined alternatives and highlighted the dismissal of a proposed $3.4bn stadium at Victoria Park that promised a more robust legacy.

Graham Quirk’s review had recommended the Victoria Park venue over QSAC, citing it as a superior option for its potential to deliver a lasting community legacy and better value for money. However, the government opted to upgrade QSAC instead, which had been initially built for the 1982 Commonwealth Games, citing lower immediate costs.

Community and Expert Reactions

Community leaders and various sports figures have criticised the decision for neglecting long-term benefits. The Senate inquiry also highlighted missed opportunities for building a more inclusive sporting infrastructure, particularly for Paralympic athletes who face significant accessibility issues.

Critics say the decision to renovate QSAC could lead to higher operational costs due to its location and the lack of necessary facilities for a world-class event. There’s also concern about the displacement of athletes and the environmental impact of upgrading the site.

Published 17-April-2024

QAS in Nathan Overhaul: Olympic Hopefuls Confront Training Centre Upheaval

Queensland’s Olympic athletes could lose their state-of-the-art $10-million training centre, the Queensland Academy of Sports (QAS) in Nathan, if plans for a redevelopment push through. 

This looming demolition is part of Queenland’s broader $1.6 billion plan to revamp the Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre (QSAC), which houses the QAS. It raises alarms about the potential derailment of the athletes’ gold medal ambitions.

Esteemed Olympic athletes, including four-time Olympian Cate Campbell and Olympic Gold Medallist Glynis Nunn, have voiced their concerns, suggesting the move could severely impact Queensland’s prospects at the Brisbane Olympics

Ms Campbell and Ms Nunn, among others, fear that the demolition could force athletes to seek training facilities interstate, potentially sabotaging Queensland’s medal chances at upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Despite the potential changes, concrete plans have yet to be unveiled to accommodate the displaced athletes, leading to a chorus of opposition from the sports community.

The Centre for Athletic Excellence

Opened two years ago by former Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, the QAS in Nathan is a high-performance centre touted as Queensland’s “secret weapon” for Olympic and Paralympic preparation. 

Designed to provide athletes with a competitive edge, its potential demolition has sparked widespread criticism, including former Lord Mayor Graham Quirk, who recommended ditching the QSAC upgrades and questioned its financial rationale. 

QSAC or Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre in Mt Gravatt
Photo Credit: QSAC/Facebook

Olympic hockey gold medallist Renita Garard and the QAS’s former chief executive, Chelsea Warr have also expressed their opposition to the State Government’s plans.

Athletes and officials alike warn that even a temporary disruption in training could significantly affect performance outcomes. The uncertainty surrounding training facilities poses a challenge not just for current athletes but also for identifying and developing future talents for the 2032 Games.

Government’s Stance

In response to the backlash, State Development Minister Grace Grace has indicated that a detailed business case will outline the full scope and timeline of the QSAC upgrades. The government promises minimal disruption and pledges to work closely with stakeholders to mitigate the impact on athletes, especially in the lead-up to the Paris Games.

Upgrades Foreseen at the QSAC in Nathan for the 2032 Olympics

Queensland intends to transform the Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre (QSAC) in Nathan into the main stadium for the 2032 Olympic Games. This decision marks a significant change in direction, sidelining the proposed redevelopment of The Gabba and a new stadium at Victoria Park, despite recommendations for these venues. 

Instead, QSAC, a legacy of the 1982 Commonwealth Games, could undergo a comprehensive $1.6 billion upgrade, heralding a new era for the historic site and its surrounding community.

Background and Controversy

After a $450,000 taxpayer-funded review of the Olympic venues led by former Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk advocated for a new stadium at Victoria Park, Premier Steven Miles announced the cabinet’s endorsement for QSAC’s redevelopment. This comes despite the review’s critique of QSAC’s suitability due to transport challenges and limited legacy benefits.

“QSAC Stadium should not be used as an Olympic and Paralympic Games venue to host the track and field events,” Mr Quirk’s panel recommended. 

“Transport and access to the QSAC Stadium during the Games will be extremely challenging and costly to facilitate.

“Site topography makes this challenge even harder, noting significant Games operational requirements to safely support the number of spectators, athletes and officials.

“Griffith University would need to be used for bus access, so bushland would need to be cleared and the pathway to the QSAC Stadium widened,” the panel’s findings further cited.

Financial Implications and Alternatives

The decision to invest $1.6 billion in QSAC, defying the independent review’s suggestions, has sparked debate. 

With an initial budget to overhaul QSAC and additional funds allocated for Suncorp Stadium and the Gabba upgrades, questions about fiscal responsibility and the best use of public resources have emerged.

Consequently, rejecting a new $3.4 billion Victoria Park stadium highlights the prioritisation of existing infrastructure over new constructions.

A New Vision for QSAC

The proposed redevelopment involves demolishing and rebuilding significant portions of QSAC, including constructing an 8,000-seat western grandstand and additional permanent seating. This plan aims to elevate QSAC to Olympic standards whilst considering the site’s challenging topography and access issues. 

The ultimate goal is a versatile 14,000-capacity stadium that serves both the Olympics and the community post-Games.

Griffith University, located next door to the QSAC, endorses investigating the upgrades.

“Brisbane has benefitted vastly from the facility since it opened in time for the Commonwealth Games in 1982,” Griffith Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Carolyn Evans said in a statement

QSAC Commonwealth Games in the 1980s
Commonwealth Games 1982
Photo Credit: QSAC/Facebook

“It has been home to major sporting fixtures and teams and as a venue for international musical acts such as Madonna and Billy Joel.

“The uses for QSAC will only grow as we approach the Olympics and well after they are finished.

“Additionally, improved transport connections to the area will benefit many thousands of people living in Brisbane’s southern suburbs.”

The decision to focus on QSAC for the 2032 Olympics represents a bold commitment to utilising existing infrastructure, fostering community legacy, and managing financial resources wisely. Whilst the move has its critics, particularly concerning the review’s recommendations, it sets the stage for an Olympic transformation that could redefine Brisbane and its approach to major sporting events.

Published 19-March-2024