By CAITLIN CROWLEY
HIGH hopes Toowoomba could host a range of sporting events during the 2032 Olympic Games have had a reality check, after analysis from Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise (TSBE) found there were “numerous challenges to be overcome” to secure a “significant role in the Olympics.”
When Brisbane won the bid last year, Mayor Paul Antonio said the Games would be a “once in a lifetime opportunity for the Toowoomba region to shine on the world stage”.
Now TSBE’s long-awaited capability report has found the best chance for Toowoomba to get in on the Olympics action was to maintain its hosting rights for preliminary football matches and potentially provide pre-games training, food and renewable energy to the world’s biggest sporting event.
“I’ve always been enthusiastic about the prospects of it,” Cr Antonio said.
“But I’ve also been practical enough to realise that the main events, the glory moments, will certainly be in places like Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast.”
The TSBE assessment showed while the region was well serviced for facilities at a community sport level, a “significant gap exists” between the requirements for community and elite sport.
The Toowoomba region has only been allocated hosting rights for preliminary rounds of football and retaining these matches “must be the region’s single biggest priority”, the report found, with “competitive tension” from other regions likely to cause a reassessment of Toowoomba’s merit as a host city, closer to the Games.
“To do that, we’re going to need to upgrade the Toowoomba Sports Ground,” TSBE CEO Ali Davenport said.
“We’re also going to need to attract more investment into hotel accommodation and look at our people transit around the city as well.”
There are approximately 2,500 short term accommodation rooms currently available in the Toowoomba region, while around 15,000 spectators a day, for 5-10 consecutive days, are anticipated for preliminary football games.
Toowoomba’s “limited 4.5 Star and no 5 Star rated accommodation” is of greatest concern, the report said, making the city less attractive as a host for Olympics spectators, Games staff and partners including sponsors and media.
“We need to get more accommodation and to do that, we need to get regular events so that accommodation providers, and I’m talking hotels, will see this as a great opportunity to invest in our region,” Ms Davenport said.
“Infrastructure like the Wellcamp Entertainment Precinct, that’s regular events, so that could draw people to our region which would mean we would have to invest in those hotels,” Ms Davenport said.
Cr Antonio said: “I do hope that when hotels are built, they’re principally built in the CBD of Toowoomba”.
The report identified continued lobbying for a passenger rail service from Brisbane to Toowoomba as another key priority.
“As a region we should have passenger rail anyway, so that is definitely one of our advocacy pieces for our region,” Ms Davenport said.
Mayor Antonio said: “We’re certainly working hard on that… We’re rather disappointed that we’re not hearing too much at the moment”.
The report found Toowoomba could potentially host equestrian, shooting and archery events, but only if current facilities were upgraded to an international standard.
The city would also need to host regular and successful national and international sporting events leading up to the Games and gain final approval from the International Olympic Committee.
Hosting rights for all three of those sports are currently allocated to Brisbane.
“I think we need to be realistic about the regions that are going to benefit most from the sport, and those is the ones like Brisbane and the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast,” Ali Davenport said.
“What we need to do is find those opportunities that we know we can deliver, and maximise those.”
TSBE and the Toowoomba council want to do that with the help of a new Olympics Taskforce, encouraging locals with relevant experience to apply to participate.
“We want community members that are going to help us drive our vision and maximise every single opportunity for us,” Ms Davenport said.