How Brisbane’s 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games can learn from the past to create a legacy for people with a disability

A report highlighting the “missed opportunities” for people with disabilities at global sporting events hopes to create a “road map” for Brisbane’s 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Advocate Sharon Boyce describes the Games as a “once in a lifetime opportunity” for Queensland to improve employment and accessibility outcomes for the disability community.

“We’ve got to focus on the now, as to what we can do now to make it actually better and to make it actually really work,” she said.

Dr Sharon Boyce said Brisbane has a chance to become a more accessible city.(ABC News: David Chen)

Queenslanders with Disability Network (QDN) and advisory firm Urbis have released the Game Changers report, which analyses five major sporting events, the legacy they left behind, and the impact it had on people with disability.

The 82-page analysis examined the successes and failures of past Olympic and Paralympic Games and recent international events in Australia.

QDN’s chief executive Michelle Moss said the report showed “a lot of missed opportunities” to create a legacy for people with a disability.

“It’s really important to plan early and to put these things into place, we can’t leave this for the year before the Games,” she said.

“If we want to deliver a real legacy that is about inclusive employment, we need to start now.”

woman on a panel speaking.

Queenslanders with Disability Network head Michelle Moss said work needs to begin now.(Supplied)

Past Olympic and Paralympic Games

In 2012, London hosted the Olympic and Paralympic Games with the ambitious plan to make London Olympic Park “the most accessible”, the document said.

But the study said volunteers with disability were not satisfied with the transport, and people with hearing or vision disabilities felt unsupported.

It also found that despite the official broadcaster for the Paralympic Games, Channel 4, reaching its target of hiring 50 per cent of its presenters with a disability for the event, overall people with a disability were not integrated across both Games.

Heath Davidson and Dylan Alcott winning gold

Heath Davidson and Dylan Alcott of Australia celebrate after winning their gold medal match at the 2016 Rio Paralympics.(Reuters: Pilar Olivares)

At the following Olympic and Paralympic Games, the stadium for the Tokyo 2020 Games was praised for its design.

It was created with input from people with disability, and the event had fully dedicated buses for people with wheelchairs rather than standard buses with limited spaces, the report found.

Australia’s failures and successes

The Gold Coast hosted the Commonwealth Games in 2018, which was the largest para-sport program in Games history, but was plagued with issues for athletes and spectators with disability.

The document noted the event’s transport and venues were not accessible.

“This included gravel car parks and trains that did not enable people in wheelchairs to access toilets or move between carriages,” the report said.

“The para-athlete experience of The Village was marginalised due to lack of volunteer knowledge, volunteers’ language, implied indifference of staff, and social spaces designed without regard for human variation.”

A large whale figure floats above the stadium while confetti and fireworks shoot out

The Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games was riddled with accessibility issues.(ABC News: James Maasdorp)

But the international sporting event did create more accessible infrastructure, improved accessible tourism, and had athletes with and without disability competing side-by-side in events.

“The integrated model of competition means that para-athletes and able-bodied athletes are afforded the same rights, privileges and responsibilities, complete concurrently, and medals won are included together in the medal count,” the report said.

In another major sporting event for Australia, cities across the country and New Zealand hosted the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The report highlighted how the World Cup “demonstrated the power of increased visibility to motivate inclusive cultural change”.

“The visibility of the Matildas can be used as an exemplar to motivate changes in other sporting areas, such as advocating for people with disability,” the report said.

Aussie fans in the stadium kitted out.

The report highlighted how the FIFA Women’s World Cup “demonstrated the power of increased visibility to motivate inclusive cultural change”.(ABC News: Brendan Esposito)

What can Brisbane learn from Paris?

With final preparations underway, the Paris 2024 Olympic Games are set to take place in July, with the Paralympics kicking off the following month.

The Paris Games aim to set aside 10 per cent of hours “worked on future contracts” for people from vulnerable groups, including those with disabilities.

The report states the success of this strategy should be considered for the Brisbane 2032 Games.

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