There are moments when one person can see, and clearly communicates, what’s possible for a state. Last night held one of those. Ruth Mackenzie CBE is an incredible leader. She was in West End’s Dixon Centre at the invitation of Brisbane Creative Collab. to share her experiences of delivering the cultural component to the 2012 London Olympics.

Here are a few of her experiences which all of us can prepare for the Olympics:

Firstly, love hosting the Olympics from the start. By resisting and pushing back you’ll lose opportunities to tell your stories to the whole world. This is Brisbane’s “once in a lifetime” opportunity.

Get your head around the reality of the Olympics and Paralympics and the numbers involved. Five million visited London for the Olympics. 54,000 rooms were needed. 60,000 meals a day were provided to the athletes alone. There were over 400,000 spectators. There is eight years between now and the Olympics and Paralympics. Use it wisely.

Queensland is home to the oldest living continuous culture on the planet. The world wants to know about its ancient stories, as well as the stories of our migrant cultures. Ask all communities to identify their local treasures and what they want to show off to the world. Work with First Nations, Disabled and rural communities as well as city communities to craft their stories.

There will be two kinds of journalists coming to Brisbane because of the Olympics: Accredited journalists with passes to the sport, and unaccredited journalists looking for a story. In London, there were five times as many unaccredited journalists as those interested in the sport. Be ready to host them and to share your stories. Start early and build support in the community, not just in Brisbane, but throughout Queensland. Proudly celebrate the culture of migrants to Australia and invite athletes to have some home cooking while they are here. Build dialogue in the community and among the business sector. Take the communities on the journey with us. Don’t clear the homeless away from the venues. Build their artistic skills. Work with Police so they understand what homeless people have to offer.

The greatest impact will be from the legacy the Games leaves behind. Craft it carefully. Use the funding that comes with the Olympics to raise the living standards of the poorest communities in Queensland. Spread the cultural activities throughout Queensland, rather than restrict them to the capital. By carefully liaising with sponsors well ahead of time, ensure all artistic activities are free and accessible to all. Support artistic endeavours tiny and large. Approached well, this opportunity can solve many of Queensland’s social problems. Engage with all Queenslanders.

Realize artists’ dreams boldly. You have a huge amount to offer sponsors. Value it highly. Do your homework. Build the capacity of your artists to tell our stories, including your disabled artists. Stand behind their vision. Enable it. Support them. Miracles will happen. Build the capacity of Queensland’s disabled artists to shape the Paralympics. Provide training, support and money. Enable them to design the look of the Paralympics. You are changing the world.

And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, shepherd your energies and resources. Less is more. Work within your resources. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Look after yourselves and each other as we reach out to the world.

Having come late to the cultural component of the London Olympics, which is leaving behind the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for future generations, Ruth wasn’t blinded by the “bling” and the “muscle” surrounding the Olympics. She showed the audience, which included people in politics, business, the arts and the local community, what is possible. The 2012 institutional structures used to organise the Olympics were:

  1. Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (OCOG), which is the conduit to the International Olympic Committee (IOC)
  2. London Organising Committee of the Games (LOCOG)
  3. Sports Component
  4. Cultural Component.

The chairs of Sports and Cultural components were on the OCOG. Ruth was the chair of the Culture component. As such she was a third-tier manager in a sports organisation. The Brisbane 2032 Organising Committee has been established.

Now it’s up to us to engage with our artists to create the best that Queensland can be after the dust of the 2032 Olympics and Paralympics has settled.

The Creative Brisbane Collab. is one organisation contributing to this future. See: for other events and membership.

Kerry McGovern