BRISBANE 2032 OPPORTUNITIES FOR AN OLYMPIC LEGACY: ARTICLE 1 The economy, design, sense of place, culture and social life of a region.


This introduces a series of 9 articles on urban design and new city planning as envisioned for Brisbane and South East Queensland in relation to the hosting of the 2032 Summer Olympics and lasting improvements to the city, its region, economy, spatial structure and places.

About the Authors

Dr John Montgomery is an urban and regional planner, an urban and regional economist and a strategic urban designer who has worked across these fields for 35 years, in the UK, Ireland, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong. He is author of four books on cities, economic development, culture and urban design. Dr Montgomery is an Executive Officer of UDAL and owner of urbancultures.

An architect and strategic urban designer, Kathi Holt has been professionally trained across four continents, acquiring BArch, MArch and PhD degrees in Architecture, as well as an Executive MSc in Cities from the London School of Economics. With more than 30 years of experience in practice and academia, Kathi is Executive Director of NERØ HOLT, a research and consulting practice. She is President of the Queensland Urban Design Alliance.

Preface by Raeburn Chapman, Editor Urban Design Review.



The Urban Design Alliance of Queensland (UDAL] is an incorporated association advocating for the highest quality of urban design outcomes in the cities of Queensland state, Australia. Its membership includes a broad collective of design professions and related disciplines. UDAL hosts a series of public forums entitled: Brisbane Conversations; where pressing challenges, threats and opportunities are explored with panels of invited experts leading the conversation.

With the Olympics being awarded to the capital city of Brisbane in 2032, UDAL are thinking well ahead of time about the legacy that could result for Brisbane and the Greater South East Queensland region in terms of economic development, urban design, place and culture. The thinking and work to date are distilled in a number of articles authored by UDAL Board President Kathi Holt, Executive Officer Dr John Montgomery and others. Kathi is an architect and strategic urban designer while John is a town planner, urban economist and strategic urban designer. Both have extensive experience in their fields internationally.

In support of this effort, Urban Design Review is publishing this body of article sequentially over the next few weeks under the series title “BRISBANE 2032: OPPORTUNITIES FOR AN OLYMPIC LEGACY.” I have asked Dr John Montgomery to distil his research and writing on the Barcelona Olympics 1992 as a detailed case study.  This has been done in three parts, published consecutively. The sequence of articles being published this calendar year is as follows:

  1. This introductory paper – The Economy, Design, Sense of Place, Culture and Social Life of a City Region
  2. Brisbane Conversation on Olympic Cities
  3. Barcelona 1992: The Olympic Games and a Paradigm Shift in City Planning Part I – Late 19th Century to Olympic Planning
  4. Barcelona 1992: The Olympic Games and a Paradigm Shift in City Planning Part II- New City Planning
  5. Barcelona 1992: The Olympic Games and a Paradigm Shift in City Planning Part III- Cultural Policy
  6. Maker, Cultural and Creative Industry Quarters
  7. The Public Realm and Place Making
  8. City Regions and Development Strategies – Economic Development, Prosperity, Environment, Culture and Places
  9. The City Region of South East Queensland – Proposals for an Olympic Legacy (A 12-Point Plan)

The following articles are planned to be published next year:

  • Health, Well-Being and Public Social Life
  • Affordable Housing – Focusing on Athletes’ Villages
  • Equis – Horses and the City

Not only are these papers directly relevant to the subject region and the Brisbane Olympic Games in particular. They offer lessons globally in urban design knowledge, thinking and strategy that can benefit other places culturally, physically, economically and environmentally. Furthermore, they represent a holistic way of thinking across planning, design and policy that has been largely lost. 

Raeburn Chapman



Brisbane skyline Photo: Adobe stock ID_192464679.jpeg

UDAL (QLD) proposes that the major investment of hosting the Olympic Games in 2032 should further enhance the quality of life, prosperity and social life through economic development, placemaking, art, design and culture – thus leaving a lifelong legacy for our city region. UDAL sees South East Queensland as a city region of connected places.

In the lead-up to the announcement of the host city for the future 2032 Olympic Games, UDAL organised a double event framing a wider discussion around legacy opportunities: ‘Designing great places for people, place, culture, economic development and the environment’. The first event, a Brisbane Conversation, showcased exemplars drawn from other cities and was led by six invited speakers. The second, was a half-day urban design charrette exploring measures to improve Brisbane as a confident, convivial, well-designed and culturally rounded city. The design charrette explored opportunities across six policy and topic areas, for example Maker Districts, the Public Realm, City Regions.

The main purpose was to share lessons learnt from other cities that have already hosted an Olympic Games, and to provide an update on Brisbane’s own preparations for the 2032 Games. The aim was also to generate ideas for potential legacy projects anchored around place-making and ‘new city planning’. As well as the big-ticket items like roads and rail and the Olympic Village, UDAL posited that any new development for the 2032 Olympics should relate to the cultural, social, design and built form characteristics of our city region.

Report Cover: Olympic Games Conversations and Charette – Olympic Games Legacy 2032, UDAL, 27 July 2021.


Brisbane’s Olympic Games Development Bid Proposal with venues across three regional clusters in South East Queensland – Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast. Published in UDAL Report, 27July2021.


The Gabba Stadium (foreground) and notional Brisbane 2032 Olympic Games, as of 26 February 2021: The stadium, an icon of the Brisbane landscape hosting major sporting events, is earmarked for refurbishment or rebuilding as the main Olympic stadium. Image: Courier Mail, published in UDAL Report, 27July2021.

Olympic Cities, Design and Regeneration

There is a relationship of long-standing between the Olympic Games and Cities. The ancient games were held around 800 years B.C, at Olympia, the home of Zeus. These were Panhellenic events in which teams from the Greek City States would compete. This was, moreover, seen as a way to build friendship and alliances between competing city states.

The Modern Olympics began in the 1890s, with the first Games being held in Athens in 1896. The summer Olympics have since been held every four years, except for 1916, 1940 and 1944. There were also large-scale and partial boycotts of the games that were hosted by Melbourne (1956), Munich (1972), Montreal (1976), Moscow (1980) and Los Angeles (1984).

In recent times, city authorities have used the Games to promote wider city planning, economic development, regeneration and urban design. Some cities have been more successful than others. This new approach to planning for the summer Olympics seems to have begun in Seoul in 1988, but particularly Barcelona in 1992, Sydney in 2000 and London 2012. Seoul focused their spending on stadia and technology, using the Olympics to help stimulate the rapid growth of Tech industries.

Lake 88 in Seoul Olympic Park: Over and above investment in stadia and technology to stimulate the high-tech industries, this expansive park is an outstanding legacy that includes a landscape of water, walking and bike trails, over 200 outdoor sculptures and various museums including the Olympic Museum. Image: Dreamstime iStock ID 1146233229, Creator, Aaron Choi.

Barcelona used the Olympics to drive urban regeneration, creating a whole new urban district, access to a new beach, 150 new and redesigned public spaces, upgraded transport, a redesigned Barcelonetta and more. There was great stress made of cultural as well as physical development. Their programme of works began around 1984 and continues to build on that Olympic framework to this day.

The Barcelona Olympic Games accelerated many infrastructure and redevelopment projects over and above the building of stadiums. The Rondo Litoral, a ring road set in parkland, crosses the city along the coastline and removes traffic from the waterfront. Some 40 kms of coastline was improved with new beaches and promenades created. The Olympic Village was built in this area and the Port de Barcelona revitalised. Image: Courtesy of Ajuntament de Barcelona.

The Magic Fountain, originally designed for the 1921 Universal Exhibition, was restored for the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games. The magnificent vista terminates at Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. Image: Courtesy of Ajuntament de Barcelona.


The Sydney Olympic 2000 cauldron has been turned into an iconic fountain and Olympic medalists’ memorial in Sydney Olympic Park in the suburb of Homebush Bay. Together with all the other venues in Sydney Olympic Park the main stadium (in background) continues to be used for sporting, musical and cultural events including the Sydney Royal Easter Show and Sydney Festival. Image: Office of Environment & Heritage NSW Government 2019.

London also focused on urban regeneration but targeted those areas of greatest disadvantage and low levels of connection to the city. Stratford and surrounding suburbs benefitted with a host of new facilities, from affordable housing [public, social and private], to new parks, public spaces, schools and a rapid rail connection via the centre of London to Paris and Brussels. Great attention was paid to the ‘legacy’, in the form of regenerated places and transport links, bequeathed by the Games. ‘Legacy for London’ was established as a stand-alone entity to manage the conversion after the Games and continues to realise the legacy investments made during the Olympic preparation.

London Olympic site: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is a sporting complex and public park in Stratford, Hackney Wick. Leyton and Bow in East London given over to a number of current and planned uses after the 2012 Summer Olympics finished. Published in UDAL Report, 27July2021.

These examples raise the question of whether there are lessons of a strategic nature to be garnered in new development, arts and culture, urban design and place-making? There will undoubtedly be more development across South East Queensland. What should this be? And where should new investment go spatially? How should new facilities, connections and developments relate to the existing built form, landscapes, parks and spaces and places?


New City Regions, Spatial Planning and Urban Design 

UDAL proposes that high quality, sustainable design should underpin any new transport infrastructure, building investments, facilities, work areas; maker districts and art venues all activated with a vibrant night-time economy.

Of particular interest for UDAL are matters concerning:

  • Adaptable mixed-use places and ‘place-making’;
  • New housing at the athletes’ village that offers models of affordable housing supplementing the existing market-driven options;
  • Revisiting the formal arts, with refreshed venues, concert halls, galleries and theatres;
  • Concentration of cultural production, with flexible and shared workspaces, studios, workshops and buildings where artefacts and services are designed and made;
  • Health and well-being, notably in relation to walkable neighbourhoods, precincts and suburbs;
  • The urban public realm as a series of interconnected outdoor rooms;
  • Forms of active and passive recreation;
  • Important topographical and cultural landscape features and icons; and
  • Industry sectors, likely growth and economic development locations.

East Village is a housing development in Stratford, East London designed and built as the London 2012 Olympic Athletes’ Village. It has since been converted for use as a new residential district with shops, bars and restaurants. London Legacy Development Corporation, Queen Elizabeth Park, iStock 174790121, Credit: kokkai.

Brisbane Olympic and Paralympic for Athletes ’Village Concept:   An opportunity to re-define the urban form of Greater Brisbane by creating a cohesive new village within the urban structure, and to provide affordable housing. Published in UDAL Report, 27July2021 Concept.


Before.                                                                                          Sydney 2000 was positioned as the ‘’environmental games” with a program of significant landscape works that cleaned up a heavily contaminated industrial site. The Sydney Olympic Millennium Parklands today provide 430ha of open space (slightly larger than New York City’s Central Park), recreation areas, wetlands and waterways. These before and after images show what had been done with one small fragment of the site. Credit: Landscape Performance Series, Sydney Olympic Millennium Parklands.


Mixed use includes business activities, employment, consumption activities, the arts, hospitality, retailing and offices, the precise mix varying from place to place. Are there possibilities of developing new areas for economic development? Do we want more evening economy precincts and additional tourism attractions?  A focus on places and precincts where there are concentrations of activity and ‘Activity Nodes’ is considered essential.

There is also the notion that building layouts should be organized around networks of walkable streets, alleys and public spaces. These are questions to do with morphology, layout, scale and density, as well as architectural design.

Should Brisbane and our other cities and towns do more to create a public space ‘system’ of ‘outdoor rooms’, a ‘public realm’? Parks and recreation areas are as integral of the public realm.  They also support ‘wellbeing’, the argument that well-designed cities and precincts and neighbourhoods help to promote healthier living.  Social facilities such as schools, health centres and public halls integrated within the urban fabric also support wellbeing and public social life.

By addressing these and other questions, the legacy of the Olympic Games in 2032 will be to support the continued evolution of Brisbane and South East Queensland as a successful, dynamic city region and a good place to live and visit.


Our thanks to our colleagues at the UDAL Board, our six Conversation speakers, those who led and guided the six Charrette ‘Tables’, and our sponsors – Artisan, Arup, King Street, Lendlease and the Hornery Institute. To all those who attended over the two days, including our volunteers and students, and those who have provided and produced images and drawings. The authors of each article will be attributed fully with each article published.