2032 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games: and the Soft Power they bring

Sian Sinclair
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The recent announcement that Brisbane will host the 2032 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games was uplifting news – and provided an exciting and hopeful light at a difficult time.

For the third time, the world's most iconic sporting festival will be welcomed to Australian shores (a feat in itself), along with the world's collective attention.

Hosting the Games will be an amazing milestone for our region, state and country. It is so much more than a sporting celebration spanning a few weeks in some 10 years’ time. Instead, the Games in Brisbane should be viewed as an enduring opportunity. That is, while the initial focus is on the 10 years leading up to 2032, the importance of the Games’ legacy will be realised for many years after the event.

This power to Brisbane cannot be underestimated and, more specifically, its soft power.

What is soft power?

The concept of soft power is not new. It was developed by Joseph Nye at Harvard University around three decades ago and describes the ability to affect others to obtain desired outcomes through attraction and persuasion, rather than force and coercion. The Global Soft Power Index is now published annually by various parties but generally measures a nation’s ‘cultural attractiveness’ – something which co-opts people or organisations into taking a positive view of that nation.
There is a strong element of familiarity and comfort that comes with investing in nations that possess soft power and often this is where we see the capital flow. Factors that can contribute to soft power include prominence in the arts or media, the perceived quality of education, and the accessibility or familiarity with the culture. It is important that those seeking investment as well as those investing are conscious of the impact these factors have and how they can affect investment decisions.

Interestingly, each of the nations that appeared in the top 10 of the 2021 Soft Power Index have previously hosted an Olympic Games, with half of those countries hosting on more than one occasion. Given that only 23 cities have hosted the modern (summer) Olympic Games since 1896, there is a lot to be said about the global reputation and soft power that comes from hosting these globally-revered sporting events.

Putting our region on show and hosting a positive Games will only help to build the appeal and interest in Brisbane as an investment destination.

Soft power play for Brisbane

The immediately obvious considerations are the procurement opportunities for local operators that come with hosting the Games and the logistical requirements of hosting an Olympic-sized contingent. However, there will inevitably be a widespread intangible benefit that comes from the cultural familiarity of having brand “Brisbane” broadcasted to the world for a sustained period. Our ability to show off our local assets and talent can drive the sort of long-term investment here that can make a real difference to our economy.

The potential for the state is huge: traditionally Queensland’s contribution to Australia’s GDP has been around 19%, with the population represents 20% of Australia - but historically it has only managed to pick up about 11% of the overseas investment into Australian commercial real estate. (Credit to JLL Research – Why will the 2032 Olympic Games in Brisbane be different? August 2021 Report)

Strengthening the Brisbane brand globally means raising the consideration level of this region to compete with Sydney and Melbourne, increasing the potential for international investors seeking opportunities here and positions Brisbane as a viable location for Australian or Asia Pacific head offices.

Ensuring that Brisbane is able to put its best foot forward when the time comes and that the Games’ legacy goes beyond just the sporting achievements is a shared responsibility of not only the Government and the business community, but also the residents and beneficiaries of the infrastructure utilised for the Games.

Key factors that can strengthen Brisbane’s soft power pull:

  • Infrastructure and construction: Prioritising planning and housing affordability to manage projected population growth; developing residential, retail and hospitality precincts for a high growth city like Brisbane. Land supply needs to be looked at closely and the Building Acceleration Fund will help with catalytic infrastructure to unlock areas.
  • Culture/ Arts / Heritage focus: Proudly demonstrating our diversity, highlighting our Indigenous and First Nations heritage and the moviemaking/entertainment facilities available.
  • Digital: Showcasing the world class gaming and AI community already based in QLD.
  • Sustainability: Investing in climate resilience and zero waste initiatives before, during and after the Games events.
  • Transport: Enabling easy transitions around our region by public transport and stretching for big and bold goals, like no cars in Brisbane CBD by 2032.
  • Tourism: With assets like the Brisbane Airport second runway, Queens Wharf precinct development and the pending international cruise ship terminal, in addition to an abundance of natural assets, Queensland is poised for a tourism boom.
  • Manufacturing: building local supplier capability to supply the Games and global competitiveness.
  • Infrastructure: the impending Games can give real purpose to the South East Queensland City Deal that was first agreed in early 2019 but has yet to demonstrate any substance. Planning now for the required infrastructure that the region needs to accommodate expected population growth (and not just the Games) will be an integral element of the liveability of our region by 2032 and beyond.
  • Education: another strong driver of soft power is the familiarity that comes with studying in a country and assimilating into the local culture for extended periods. The overall consideration levels for Brisbane could lead to evening up the share of the foreign students generally dominated by the southern states, which is also good news for student accommodation asset providers

What does this mean for Queensland’s real estate and construction sector?

Raising Brisbane’s (and Queensland’s) international profile through soft power has a significant knock-on effect on the economy. It becomes, for instance: a destination that people desire to study in; adopt the lifestyle, a place to set up head offices; and a city in which you wish to launch or expand a business. Until now, Brisbane has been relatively unknown outside our shores but now has the potential to be on equal footing with Sydney and Melbourne-based familiarity for consideration around the globe.

International real estate investors have an abundance of choices globally. When so many options present themselves, the regions that stand out are the ones that offer complementary and reliable benefits. Investors feel confident putting money into territories they are familiar with - and this familiarity is being determined by the level of soft power regions project and the direct experiences investors have with them.