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state library of queensland
John Oxley Library

Brisbane's bid for the 1992 Olympic Games

By Myles Sinnamon - Project Coordinator, State Library of Queensland | 27 July 2012

How would the 1992 Olympic Games have looked if Brisbane had been the successful host candidate?

Brisbane's Lord Mayor, Alderman Sallyanne Atkinson, accepting $200,000 in gold coins towards Brisbane's 1992 Olympic Games bid

Brisbane's Lord Mayor, Alderman Sallyanne Atkinson, accepting $200,000 in gold coins towards Brisbane's 1992 Olympic Games bid. The contribution was made by a Brisbane-based investment company (1986). Negative number 191986, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. 

There are several items in the State Library of Queensland's collection which provide possible answers to this question.  Brisbane's preparations for its bid for the 1992 Olympic Games began with the successful hosting of the 1982 Commonwealth Games. On 15 October 1982 Brisbane Lord Mayor Roy Harvey announced that he would initiate an investigation into the possibility of Brisbane hosting the Olympic Games. This investigation led to the development of the "Committee to Organise the Brisbane Olympics" which drove the project forward.

Brisbane's rivals for the 1992 Games were Belgrade, New Delhi, Birmingham, Amsterdam, Paris and Barcelona. Brisbane considered it had an advantage over its rivals as it believed a massive construction program to prepare for the Games was unnecessary. It was thought that many of the facilities used during the 1982 Commonwealth Games could be adapted.

Brisbane boasted that its main advantages were:

  • "a complex plan in which all sports venues would be within 20kms of the Village, and less than 30 minutes travelling time"
  • "one central Village for all Olympians, officials and participants in demonstration sports"
  • "security and peace"
  • "a new Brisbane International Airport to cope with the 15,000 athletes and officials, 10,000 media representatives and 200,000 Games visitors"
  • "the first fully-integrated media and broadcast communication "city" in Olympic history with sophisticated media and communication facilities"

Extensive planning documents covered which venues each sport would be played at, as well as  the location of the Olympic Village and the state-of-the-art Media Village.  The Brisbane Olympics was to be split into 4 zones – Central City Zone, Boondall Zone, Chandler Zone and Queen Elizabeth II Zone.

The opening and closing ceremony for the 1992 Olympic Games would be held at the QEII stadium at Nathan. It was proposed that seating capacity at the stadium be increased from 62,000 to 95,000.

Apart from the ceremonies the Queensland Elizabeth II Zone would host the athletics competitions.

People forming the Australian flag at QEII Stadium for the Brisbane Commonwealth Games, 1982. State Library of Queensland.

QEII Stadium during the 1982 Commonwealth Games. The stadium was to undergo renovations if Brisbane hosted the 1992 Olympics. Negative number 191177, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

The Boondall Zone was based around the existing Brisbane Entertainment Centre. This zone would host basketball, diving, hockey, handball, volleyball, gymnastics, yachting and synchronised swimming. A new Hockey Centre and Aquatic Centre were proposed for this site. The Boondall Zone also featured the Olympic Village which would have housed the 15,000 Olympic competitors and officials. The Village was to be constructed in the Boondall Wetlands.  It was planned that the Village would be converted into a residential area at the end of the Games with the proposed cinema, restaurant, disco, tavern, games rooms and dining areas to be converted into a shopping mall. A marina with the capacity to hold up to 1,800 boats was also scheduled for construction at Boondall.

The Chandler Zone would feature archery, Judo, swimming, fencing, wrestling, shooting, equestrian, cycling, modern pentathlon, weightlifting and badminton. The Sleeman Sports Complex already existed on the site, which included an aquatic centre and a cycling velodrome.  The archery competition was to be held at the nearby Murrarie Recreation Ground and shooting at the Belmont Rifle Range.

The Central City Zone would host football, boxing, tennis and water polo. It was proposed that boxing would be held at Festival Hall and water polo at the Fortitude Valley Pool. The majority of the football matches would be played at Lang Park (now Suncorp Stadium) with support grounds at Ballymore, Perry Park and Spencer Park. Tennis was scheduled to be played at Milton's (now defunct) Tennis Centre, which would have undergone a major reconstruction to provide one main stadium court, three secondary courts and twenty practice courts.

Two events, rowing and canoeing, would be held on Lake Kurwongbah. A temporary grandstand was to be erected with casual seating for up to 10,000 spectators.

One of the major selling points of Brisbane's 1992 Olympics bid was the Media Village and Media Centre, described as "the first fully-integrated media and broadcast communication "city" in Olympic history" and boasting the latest techniques such as stereo sound, super slow motion, isolated camera slow motion and divide control of multi-action events. The Media Centre and Village was to be positioned at South Bank after the Expo 88 site had been demolished.

Panoramic views of the World Expo site, 1986; This site was to be used as the Media Village for the 1992 Brisbane Olympics. State Library of Queensland.

Panoramic views of the World Expo site, 1986; This site was to be used as the Media Village for the 1992 Brisbane Olympics. Image number 7206-0001-0001, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. 

In total the Games was expected to cost $821 million with an expected revenue of $908 million

On 17 October 1986 Brisbane's dreams were dashed when Barcelona was announced as the host of the 1992 Olympic Games. Out of the 6 competiting cities Brisbane had disappointly come third. The years of planning and the positive thinking all came to nought.

"We want to show the world what Brisbane, Queensland and Australia has to offer, both on and off the sports field. We want to show you that Brisbane is ready NOW for 1992!" - Sallyanne Atkinson, Lord Mayor of Brisbane

The State Library of Queensland holds a few items documenting Brisbane's unsuccessful bid for the Games.

  • Brisbane 1992 - produced by the Committee to Organise the Brisbane Olympics - 3 volumes - contains extensive details about the layout of the Media Village and were each sport was to be played and what construct/reconstruction work was required. Includes details maps of each zone and the Media Village
  • Olympics In The Sun - the official Brisbane Olympics glossy newsletter published between 1985 and 1986
  • R 148 Olympic Project Office Records - two reports detailing Brisbane's bid, along with copies of letters of support from Brisbane Lord Major Sallyanne Atkinson, Queensland Premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen and Prime Minister of Australia Bob Hawke
  • 31322 Sallyanne Atkinson Collection 1985-1992 - contains three posters created to support Brisbane's unsuccessful bid for the 1992 Olympic Games as well as an Interim Feasibility Report On Brisbane City's Bid for the 1992 Olympic Games.


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