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Olympic Games infrastructure under review

With mounting costs and building delays, a 60-day Olympic Games infrastructure review has been announced by the Queensland government

A cynic might say that when a government orders a review it is to deflect from the real issues the government itself has created. The announcement of a 60-day review into the delivery of the Olympic Games infrastructure may be seen as such.

The delivery of Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games infrastructure is already behind time. It is clear that there have been insufficient funds budgeted and there is waning community support for some of the initiatives.

Queensland Premier Steven Miles has ordered a 60-day ‘value for money review’ of Olympics infrastructure. This review is to be headed up by the original conceiver of the 2032 Brisbane Olympics, and former Brisbane Mayor, Graham Quirk.

As with the Australian government’s 90-day Strategic Review of the Infrastructure Investment Program, the 60-day Olympics infrastructure review has been initiated due to concerns over costs.

The review’s Terms of Reference of note the scheduled evaluation “will assist the Queensland government in ensuring investments made in sports venues for the hosting of the Games are affordable, fit-for-purpose, deliverable and create a substantial legacy with benefits for our communities”.

The review will have regard to the following documents and studies:

  • the Olympic Host Contract, including the final response and commitments for new and upgraded venues to the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC), Future Host Questionnaire, and the operational requirements related to event delivery and venues;
  • the IOC’s ‘new norm’ with a focus on affordability, sustainability and long-term development objectives in the delivery of Brisbane 2032;
  • the sports venue-relevant recommendations of the IOC Games Optimisation Group created in 2022 to identify savings and efficiencies in the delivery of the Games;
  • the Elevate 2042 Legacy strategy and policy commitments;
  • the Intergovernmental Agreement of February 2023 between the Commonwealth of Australia and the Queensland government, which provides a framework to fund key projects and initiatives to support the successful delivery of Brisbane 2032;
  • project validation reports (PVRs) and joint business cases (JBCs); and
  • the deliverability of projects in the current market and macro-economic conditions.

The Terms of Reference suggest the government has concerns about its own assessments of the planned Olympic infrastructure, which it should – a good portion of cost increases are at its own hand.

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Policies such as best practice principles, whilst providing a lot of positive outcomes for Queensland, come at a cost that would seem to have not been transparently identified in the PVRs, JBCs and current market and macroeconomic conditions report.

Contractors and their supply chains are contractually bound to deliver commitments that include fit-for-purpose conditions such as:

  •  wages and conditions;
  •  training targets;
  •  Indigenous engagement;
  •  local supply chain involvement;
  •  gender diversity;
  •  other community benefits;
  •  climate change initiatives; and
  •  other environmental initiatives.

The conditions of these contracts all come at a cost, and they are not immune to inflationary pressures that impact the actual cost of construction.

The problem is that the cost of these initiatives has not been budgeted for and until there is a history of delivery costs developed, they will continue to be difficult to forecast.

These ‘non-direct construction costs’ should be recorded and reviewed independently from other budget items.

The recording and reviewing of these costs should be done outside of the infrastructure departments that place more emphasis on the value of these costs to deliver a lasting legacy to communities than the tangible costs to physically deliver the infrastructure.

The legacy is twofold. The legacy that the infrastructure will deliver to communities once completed, and the legacy that the delivery of the infrastructure will bring. I don’t think the two have been adequately communicated and costed by the government, and subsequently properly communicated to the community.

Unfortunately, the delays caused by the 90-day review have impacted on the delivery of the infrastructure for the Games.

This review must be completed in the 60 days allocated and the report must be immediately released in full to the public so that all decision makers can get on with the job of delivering the required infrastructure for the Games.

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