Olympics

New-look Gabba central to 2032 Brisbane Olympics

Cameron Voss | Tuesday 20th April 2021
A concept drawing of the new-look Gabba hosting an AFL game

The Gabba has been confirmed as the centrepiece of Brisbane’s 2032 Olympic Games bid, with the venue to be rebuilt to serve as the main stadium.

It’s proposed the venue will be demolished and built from the ground up, to host the athletics, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies.

Previous options announced back in February had included a new stadium at the Albion Park Raceway site in Brisbane’s inner north-east and Metricon Stadium, however Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced on Tuesday morning that the existing centrally-located Gabba would instead be utilised.

Expected to cost around the $1 billion mark, Ms Palaszczuk said the Gabba would be completely rebuilt, increasing its current capacity from 42,000 to around the 50,000 mark.

The proposed 50,000 capacity is on the small side in terms of Olympic venues. Sydney’s held 110,000, London 80,000, Rio de Janeiro 60,000, while Tokyo’s new national stadium will have a capacity of 68,000 and Paris in 2024 - 75,000. When first proposed in 2019, a new 80,000-capacity stadium in Brisbane was being considered. 

The Premier said having a main stadium two kilometres from the CBD gave Queensland an advantage other Games hosts haven’t had.

Nearby parkland would be developed for the athlete warm-up facilities, with transport to get athletes to and from the stadium via a VIP corridor.

A new pedestrian plaza will also be built, linking the stadium to the new Cross River Rail station, currently under construction, transporting fans from the CBD to the stadium in three minutes. The plaza could be transformed into a games hub and used for concerts and medal presentations.

Aerial view of the Gabba and adjoining Plaza

The Gabba has been home to sport in Brisbane since 1895 and continues to serve the city as the primary AFL and cricket venue, used on average 40 weeks of the year. A much needed $35 million upgrade of its facilities was completed late last year ahead of the 2020 AFL Grand Final.

Stadium Designing firm Populous has provided concept designs for a possible Gabba upgrade, with three seating levels and lighting above the roof similar in design to London's Olympic Stadium.

Ms Palaszczuk said options had been looked at whether the existing venue could be remodelled, but it'll instead be completely rebuilt and there wouldn't be a bad seat in the house.

“We are actually going to lift this stadium” she said.

Officials are planning to host an Olympic Games that’ll break-even – avoiding the mistakes of previous hosts were huge sums of money have been spent building stadiums that end up as white elephants.

The Gabba would join Cairns, Townsville, the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast as games venues, with 85% of them already built.

Another proposed new venue is the 15,000-capacity Brisbane Live Arena, to host swimming (with a temporary pool) and basketball. There’s also the prospect of some Sydney 2000 venues being used, including the Penrith Whitewater Stadium, while football would be staged at venues across Australia's east-coast.

Both the AFL and Cricket Australia have welcomed the decision to make the Gabba the main stadium of the 2032 Olympic Games should Queensland win the right to host them.

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said the Gabba had been an iconic ground for Australian football in the state and the decision to transform it into a 50,000-seat world-class venue would leave a lasting legacy for football, sport and the wider community.

“(We) look forward to working with the Government in ensuring the Gabba continues to play a major part in the growth of our game in Queensland for the next 100 years,” Mr McLachlan said.

Cricket Australia's interim CEO Nick Hockley said “the Gabba is one of the most important, iconic and historic cricket grounds in Australia. We are delighted that the Queensland Government has agreed to a major redevelopment shouldBrisbane win the right to host the 2032 Olympic Games”.

A final decision on Brisbane's bid is expected to be made as early as July, ahead of Tokyo 2021.

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The Gabba has been confirmed as the centrepiece of Brisbane’s 2032 Olympic Games bid, with the venue to be rebuilt to serve as the main stadium.
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