By Kate Meyrick | 22 Jul 2021

This is undoubtedly a defining moment in Queensland’s contemporary history.

As a Londoner, I was proud of the 2012 Games and an advocate for its regenerative impact on East London, specifically the 200ha program of social, economic and urban regeneration at Stratford.

As a parent, I applaud the example set by Paris in seeking to stage the world’s first sporting event with a beneficial impact on climate.

But as a strategist, I am compelled by the economic prescience of the Japanese.

As the host city of the XXXII Olympiad, Tokyo was anticipating the 2020 Games to deliver both significant international exposure and a seismic economic boost.

The ambition was to put Japan on display to the world, and one inevitable measure of success was expansion of its international visitor market from about 10 million before the 2013 announcement, to 40 million by 2020.

While the pandemic has put pay to any spectators at all, by 2018 the annual international visitor market had already risen to 31 million and visitor infrastructure will remain a significant legacy of the Games.

Eventually, leisure travel will return and Japan, not just its capital, will present as a more charismatic, connected and competitive contemporary visitor proposition.

But tourism is only one element of the economic story associated with the Tokyo Olympics. The other is technological innovation.

For decades, Japan had been an undisputed global leader in the tech sector and ahead of the innovation curve. However, in the first decade of the new millennium, both the United States and China had gained momentum and were rapidly overtaking in market share and brand perception.

The Olympic bid and subsequent announcement reflected the alignment of national pride and economic prescience – Tokyo 2020 would be the most innovative Games ever.

It would form the focus for reigniting Japan’s science and technology agenda and activating its next generation talent pipeline, developing wide-ranging technologies that could be showcased to the world and subsequently commercialised.

This decision has driven not only the leapfrogging of confidence and capabilities in the science and technology sectors, but also rising foreign direct investment – $US262bn in 2017 (World Economic Forum), and the development of smart city infrastructure and a special economic zone that will support future economic growth.

As such, while their Games based tourism boost will sadly remain unfulfilled, powerful foundations for the next wave of economic competitiveness have been laid.

So what can Queensland, SEQ and Brisbane learn from this? We need to decide what we want our economic future to be and use the Olympic state of mind to build and execute on that advantage.

We have lots of options to further strengthen or expand – from mining and METS, through agri-tech innovation, clean energy capability, maritime and marine excellence or BioMed to robotics – and there will be plenty of new opportunities in sectors that do not yet exist.

So we need to think big and act boldly, looking beyond gains in the tourism, construction and hospitality sectors where we have existing strengths (even if they have been challenged in the current pandemic), this is an opportunity to build Queensland 2050 powered by both knowledge and ambition.

This article was originally published in The Courier Mail.