Olympic athletes urge Brisbane 2032 stadium rethink


Sally Pearson has put her name to an open letter calling for a Brisbane Olympic stadium rethink.
Sally Pearson has put her name to an open letter calling for a Brisbane Olympic stadium rethink.

Olympic gold medallists Sally Pearson, Grant Hackett and Leisel Jones are among the latest high-profile athletes to urge a rethink on controversial stadium plans for the Brisbane 2032 Games. 

The trio were among a group of Olympians and Paralympians who on Tuesday put their signatures to an open letter criticising plans to stage the Olympic track and field events at the 49-year-old Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre (QSAC). 

Others to put their names to the letter included Olympic swimmers Melanie Wright, Brooke Hanson, Geoff Huegill, Jon Sieben, Andrew Baildon, Chris Wright and Brenton Rickard, as well as Paralympians Curtis McGrath, Karni Liddell and Monique Murphy. 

Grant Hackett.
Swimmer Grant Hackett won seven medals for Australia across three Olympic Games. (Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS)

A recent infrastructure review commissioned by the Queensland government had recommended building a $3.4 billion 55,000-seat stadium at Victoria Park in inner-Brisbane as a centrepiece of the 2032 Games. 

But state premier Steven Miles instead announced a plan to revamp Suncorp Stadium, QSAC and the ageing Gabba.

The $2.5 billion Brisbane Arena – set to host swimming – will be the only new stadium built, thanks to federal funding.

Double Olympic gold-medal winning swimmer Ariarne Titmus last week questioned the state government’s plans for the Games, saying Brisbane needed to “put our best foot forward and because of these decisions we’re not doing that”.

Tuesday’s open letter backed up Titmus’s concerns. 

“While we understand that you want to get the best value for taxpayers out of the Games, we do not believe that the QSAC site represents that, not just financially but also in terms of a legacy for Brisbane and Queensland,” it said.

“And frankly, a main stadium with a capacity of only 40,000 would be an embarrassment which in no way would represent the go-ahead spirit of Queensland.”

The letter also took aim at the premier’s pledge to spend $1.6 billion refurbishing QSAC. 

Queensland Premier Steven Miles.
Queensland Premier Steven Miles has come under fire over plans for the 2032 Olympics in Brisbane. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

“The QSAC facility is the nursery of athletics in this state, and any disruption to the site could only hurt our performance in our home Games,” it said.

“We all remember the magnificent event that Sydney put on in 2000. 

“Queensland deserves something equally spectacular, without a centrepiece that would reek of compromise. It’s not too late to change your mind, Mr Miles.”

The Queensland premier said on Tuesday the concerned athletes were “entitled to their opinions but we listen to Queenslanders”. 

“They’re talking to me about their hospital, about their school, about how hard they’re finding it to make ends meet,” he told the Courier-Mail.

“When Queensland is facing those kinds of day-to-day challenges, I can’t justify spending billions more on stadiums, no matter how many swimmers ask me.”