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Brisbane Olympics should prioritise public transport, says London Olympics planner

Fireworks explode over the Olympic Stadium during the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. (Reuters: Dylan Martinez)

Ten years on from the London 2012 Olympic Games, one of its planners says public transport has emerged as one of the city's major legacies and has urged Brisbane to make it a priority in the 10 years to 2032. 

AECOM cities programme leader Andrew Jones said the global consulting firm worked on the London Olympics from the early days of its bid in 2003 through to the fulfilment of the Games in 2012.

"The one thing that we did right, and I would recommend Brisbane carrying forward as well, is just focusing on how those different locations need to be really well connected," he said.

"We'd have put even more energy into getting the public transport right and the local connections, the footways, and cycleways.

"All the things that, 10 years on, we've seen enable people in the city — often from less advantaged communities — to access jobs and leisure activities across the city because actually moving around the city is better.

"I think we'd have done more of that than we did in 2012 because those connections and stitching the city together with a public transport focus is really important."

Ten years on

London's Games operated on a centralised model with most of the facilities centred on 227 hectares of derelict land in the city's east. The land was purchased, cleaned up, and transformed into a major sporting precinct.

Ten years on, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is now a hub for sporting events, leisure activities, and recreation and includes businesses and residences.

"London was one of the first Games where we said we would use a lot of existing facilities rather than build all new, and anything that didn't have a long-term legacy use was built as a temporary facility," Mr Jones said.

AECOM cities programme leader Andrew Jones. (Supplied: AECOM)

"There was a lot of really careful thinking, and a lot of this happened after we actually won [the bid].

"You put a plan forward to the [International Olympic Committee], then win it, then work out what is the best value for money, what is going to be the best legacy, and not leave you any white elephants that you can't use afterwards."

Queensland's plan for the Olympics will primarily use existing venues across Brisbane, Townsville, Cairns, Toowoomba, the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast.

The proposed Brisbane Live stadium at Roma Street. (Supplied: Cross River Rail)

Eighty-four per cent of the venues Queensland included in its bid are either existing or temporary.

Six new venues will be constructed in Moreton Bay, Redlands, Brisbane, and the Sunshine Coast including a new stadium at Roma Street.

Stadium legacies

In scenes similar to London's uncertainty about the future of the $827 million Olympic Stadium in 2012, planning for The Gabba stadium as Brisbane's key Olympic venue remains a controversial point.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has insisted the $1 billion demolition and reconstruction of the Gabba will go ahead, despite concern about its impact on a local school, the community, and its long-term value.

A concept image of the proposed redevelopment of the Gabba stadium. (Supplied: Queensland Government)

Looking back at London 2012, Mr Jones said the legacy of the central 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium should have been finalised sooner.

While it now hosts West Ham United football club, with 60,000 seats it is also a major athletics centre and live music venue.

"There was debate about whether a soccer team was going in as a long-term tenant or not," Mr Jones said.

"That kind of affected the design process and how that transformation happened.

"If that decision could have been made earlier on, and we knew that a soccer team was going in there, then actually the design of it would have been adapted earlier on, and ultimately been less expensive for London."

Public spending for public good

Mr Jones said, given Brisbane had a decade to plan, there was an opportunity for governments to stand back and clearly evaluate each facility to ensure they worked not just for the 2032 Games, but that they would leave "a really good legacy".

The concept plan proposed for a major Olympic sport venue at Albion. (Supplied: Brisbane City Council)

"Some of that public money being spent may be a really good solution, if a new or upgraded facility is going to be good for another 20 to 30 years," he said.

"If some of the facilities out there are a little tired, then the Olympics is the opportunity to really make them world-class because you're not just doing them for the Olympics.

"Since the 2012 Games, [London] has also hosted the World Athletics Championships, the velodrome is used regularly, and the aquatic centre has transformed the ability of London to host swimming events."

But, he noted, if he were planning London all over again, he too would look at using more existing facilities.

"Re-using some existing facilities is probably something we'd have done more of in London if we were doing it now or in the future," he said.

"Perhaps a less grand solution for a project that is actually better value for money and also really does use those facilities that are out there."

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