Brisbane embraces 'bright light' of 2032 Olympics

·3-min read

The announcer's mask-muffled voice was difficult for the crowd to make out, but when Australia's delegates jumped to their feet, Brisbane knew it was hosting the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

In that instant, hundreds of sports-mad Aussies gathered on the banks of the Brisbane river erupted -- abandoning social distancing and joyously embracing as tendrils of colourful fireworks streaked across the night sky.

Most of those crammed into the viewing party had expected their bid to win against minimal opposition.

But that didn't dampen the moment one bit.

"It's unbelievable. It's so exciting. It's going to be transformational for the city," Heath Parsons, 39, told AFP.

For many, this was a welcome distraction from the drudgery of the coronavirus pandemic, which has sent the city into multiple snap lockdowns in pursuit of zero virus transmission.

"It gives the city something to hope for. It's a really bright light in the future which I'm really excited about," 46-year-old Brisbane resident Madonna Potter said.

With about half the country's 25 million people in lockdown to stamp out a virulent Delta outbreak -- including all of Sydney and Melbourne -- the reaction across the rest of Australia was expected to be relatively muted.

But in Brisbane the mask-wearing crowd waited outdoors for hours to hear the news, some lounging in striped beach chairs while rugged up in jackets and scarves, as local bands took to the stage.

Brisbane's final pitch to the IOC was streamed live from Tokyo, with Queensland state Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk promising the city would create an "enthralling experience".

Officials hope the win will provide a tourism boost once Australia's borders reopen to the world, after closing to most international travellers in March 2020.

"At least we know Australia is planning to open its borders by 2032!" joked one Twitter user.

The country's third-biggest city also hopes the Games will put it firmly on the global map, as strives to catch up to Melbourne and Sydney, which hosted in 1956 and 2000 respectively.

"This is our celebration moment -- it's our time to make Brisbane the new world city that it's destined to be," local Jonathan Cox, 32, told AFP.

Buildings in the city centre were lit up in green and gold -- the colours of Australia's sporting teams -- while smaller viewing parties were held in nearby seaside enclaves that are also set to stage Olympic events.

Brisbane 2032 will also be spread across the Sunshine and Gold Coasts, the latter of which hosted the 2018 Commonwealth Games, as organisers try to keep to a relatively modest budget of Aus$4.5 billion (US$3.3 billion) by making use of existing venues.

Brisbane resident John Hogan, 46, said the city would embrace the Olympics and put on a "massive show" for visitors.

"I'm a mad sports freak so seeing people compete at their best, bringing lots of different cultures coming together -- I think that's fantastic," he told AFP.

"That spirit of the Olympics is still alive."

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