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Olympians are calling for a rethink at the Brisbane 2032 stadium

SYDNEY: A group of local Olympians including London 2012 hurdler Sally Pearson have called on the Queensland government to reverse its decision to host athletics at the 2032 Brisbane Games at a 49-year-old suburban stadium.

The 14 Olympians and Paralympians, including swimming champions Leisel Jones, Jon Sieben and Grant Hackett, said in a letter that the Queensland Sport and Athletics Center (QSAC) was not a suitable venue for the Olympics.

“While we understand that you want to get the maximum benefit for taxpayers from the Games, we do not believe the QSAC website represents this, not only financially but also in terms of a legacy for Brisbane and Queensland,” they wrote .

“And frankly, a main stadium with a capacity of just 40,000 spectators would be an embarrassment that in no way reflects Queensland’s dynamic spirit.”

Organizers had originally planned to renovate the city’s Gabba cricket stadium to host the opening and closing ceremonies as well as athletics in 2032, but the local government paled at the cost and ordered a review of the plans last December.

The Quirk Review reported last month proposing the construction of a new purpose-built 55,000-seat Olympic stadium in an inner-city park that would cost 3.4 billion Australian dollars (US$2.21 billion).

State Premier Steven Miles rejected this recommendation on cost grounds and decided that the Lang Park rugby stadium would host the ceremonies and the athletics would move to the QSAC in the city’s southern suburbs.

The Olympians’ letter echoes comments from Australian track and field athlete Raelene Boyle, who said last month that Brisbane was in danger of being seen as a “cheap” Olympics.

Miles promised that QSAC would be renovated at a cost of A$1.6 billion, but even that could be counterproductive, the Olympians said.

“The QSAC facility is the birthplace of athletics in this state and any disruption at the facility could only impact our performance at our home games,” the letter continued.

“We all remember the great event that Sydney hosted in 2000. Queensland deserves something equally spectacular, without a centerpiece that reeks of compromise. It’s not too late to change your mind, Mr. Miles.”

Miles, whose Labor government is seeking a fourth consecutive term in October’s state election, appeared in no mood to change his mind when he spoke to reporters on Tuesday.

“You are entitled to your opinion but we listen to Queenslanders. They talk to me about their hospital, about their school, about how difficult it is for them to make ends meet,” he told the Courier-Mail from Brisbane.

“When Queensland faces such challenges every day, I cannot justify spending billions more on stadiums, no matter how many swimmers ask me.”

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Coordinating Commission for Brisbane met with organizers last week and said all plans, including venues, should meet the needs of the city and not the needs of the Games.

($1 = 1.5406 Australian dollars)

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