Mike Rowbottom ©ITG

Individual time trial events took place at Wollongong today. They mark the start of the International Cycling Union (UCI) Road World Championships; but also something much bigger. Namely Australia's "Decade of Sport".

In the next 10 years this sport-loving nation will host a series of major international events that will culminate in the staging of the Brisbane Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2032, following the hugely successful hosting by Sydney in 2000.

Although it was beaten by Qatar to the rights to stage the men's FIFA World Cup later this year, Australia, which annually holds the Open tennis and Formula One, is set to co-host the women's equivalent with New Zealand in 2023 as well as staging men's and women's Rugby World Cups in 2027 and 2029, respectively.

A British and Irish Lions rugby tour will also be hosted in 2025, and the year after Australia will stage its fifth Commonwealth Games, this time in the state of Victoria.

There will also be world championships for BMX cycling and canoe slalom.

The UCI World Road Championships that got underway in Wollongong today mark the start of a Decade of Sport in Australia ahead of the staging of the Brisbane 2032 Games ©Getty Images
The UCI World Road Championships that got underway in Wollongong today mark the start of a Decade of Sport in Australia ahead of the staging of the Brisbane 2032 Games ©Getty Images

The Netball World Cup will be coming in 2027 and Presidents Cup golf will arrive a year later as the calendar crowds heading towards the 2032 Games, which were confirmed for Brisbane by the International Olympic Committee before last summer's Tokyo Olympics, with the city having been announced as a preferred candidate in February.

Similar runs of international event hosting have taken place in the recent past. In the case of Britain, the London 2012 Games were followed by the staging of the 2015 Rugby World Cup and the 2017 World Athletics Championships.

Russia subsequently hosted a slew of top sporting events, including the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2018 FIFA World Cup, before doping and graver matters curtailed its hyper-activity.

Now it is Australia’s turn to be the world’s sporting host. And for all its proud record in that area, this nation of 26 million people will never have seen anything like it before.

On July 23, the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) marked 10 years until the start of Brisbane 2032, with chief executive Matt Carroll speaking in terms of a "green and gold runway", adding that his county has "incredible opportunities over the next decade".

Carroll expressed his belief that upcoming competitions can help to showcase Australia prior to Brisbane 2032.

"Our time starts now," he insisted. 

"That’s how we look at the incredible opportunities over the next decade.

"We have talked about more than 30 major international sporting events coming to Australia and community infrastructure coming online in the decade ahead.

"We have the world's best athletes coming here and inspiring our young people.

The FIBA Women's World Cup is being staged in Sydney, with competition due to start on Thursday ©Getty Images
The FIBA Women's World Cup is being staged in Sydney, with competition due to start on Thursday ©Getty Images

"This year alone we have the FIBA World Cup for women, the UCI Road World Cycling Championships, the UCI Freestyle BMX World Cup, swimming’s 'Duel in the Pool' between the USA [United States] and Australia and the World Short Course Swimming Championships.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for our athletes to compete in front of home crowds, taking on the best in the world and showing the world how Australia can put on a good show."

Australia's borders opened fully to travellers fully vaccinated against COVID-19 for the first time in almost two years on February 21.

Wollongong 2022 chief executive Stu Taggart said the Road World Championships, which were awarded in 2018, had served as a "north star to look forward to" for the Organising Committee when Australia was faced with some of the world's toughest coronavirus countermeasures.

Despite the UCI's delegation only being able to travel to Australia in February, UCI President David Lappartient, who was elected as an International Olympic Committee member in February this year, claimed that he had no concerns over international travel permitting the Championships to take place.

"Not specifically," he said when asked if he had any fears.

"I do not panic.

"I always say that 'things will happen', do not worry."

Things are indeed happening now at the UCI Road World Championships as the individual time trial events, involving elite men and women, under-23 men and junior men and women take place over distances varying from 14.1 kilometres (8.8miles) to 34.2km (21.3miles).

Australia's fabled competitor Lauren Jackson, right, has come out of retirement aged 41 to compete in the FIBA Women's World Cup which starts in Sydney this week ©Getty Images
Australia's fabled competitor Lauren Jackson, right, has come out of retirement aged 41 to compete in the FIBA Women's World Cup which starts in Sydney this week ©Getty Images

The Wollongong 2022 race director Scott Sunderland added: "Many people have a perception that Australia is flat, open and all about the ocean - in Wollongong, there are all the elements that make road cycling dynamic and difficult, from the Mount Keira climb through the escarpment to the urban ascent up Mount Pleasant.

"We're going to see the riders really testing their strategic and athletic capabilities as they navigate the Wollongong City Circuit and Time Trial courses, which will be spectacular viewing for the on-ground crowds and broadcast viewers.

"If you think you know Wollongong and Australia, think again.

"The 2022 UCI Road World Championships will separate the challengers from the champions and put our coastal city on the map for fans worldwide."

Women's under-23 titles in the road race and time trials have also been created for the Championships in Wollongong, which according to Lappartient will enable the UCI to reach "complete gender equality regarding the number of titles".

On Tuesday France’s Julian Alaphilippe, who dislocated his shoulder after crashing out of La Vuelta a Espana, announced he would be fit to seek a third consecutive men's road race title after his victories in Imola and Flanders.

The 268.3km men’s route through New South Wales includes 12 laps of a Wollongong City Circuit encompassing a short and sharp ascent to Mount Pleasant, a climb of just over one km with gradients peaking at 14 per cent.

Australia last staged the UCI Road World Championships in Geelong in 2010.

Don't blink. On Thursday (September 22) the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Women's World Cup will be held in Sydney, finishing on October 1.

Such is the pull of this momentous competition that Australian Basketball Hall of Famer Lauren Jackson has returned from retirement to make the 12-strong national team roster for the event at at the age of 41, and is now due to make her fifth World Cup appearance 16 years after being in the team that won the event.

Matches will take place at the Sydney Super Dome and the State Sports Centre, with the United States, Olympic champions, seeking to win a fourth consecutive title after their victories in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Australia's 2006 win interrupted their winning sequence, and as silver medallists in 2018, the hosts will be hopeful that they can alter the status quo.

Don’t blink. The 2022 International Cricket Council (ICC) Men's T20 World Cup will be played in Australia from October 16 to November 13 this year.

Melbourne will stage the FINA Short Course World Championships in December ©Getty Images
Melbourne will stage the FINA Short Course World Championships in December ©Getty Images

Next up in terms of prestigious international events will be the International Swimming Federation (FINA) World Swimming Championships (25 metres), which will be staged in Melbourne in December.

The costs of hosting an Olympic and Paralympic Games are enormous. But so are the benefits.

The original pitch document suggested the total cost for the Games could exceed £2.9bn ($3.3 billion/€3.3 billion), but for that the people of Brisbane have been promised infrastructure upgrades, parks and recreational facilities, shopping centres and, of course, venues.

"The return on investment is a complex issue," Popi Sotiriadou, an associate professor of sport management at Queensland's Griffith University, told Agence-France Presse.

"There are things that we can't measure - you can't put a money value on national pride. There are so many of what we call 'public goods' that do not necessarily translate to dollars.

"There are legacies in terms of feel-good factors, people feel that connectedness with each other.

"And with any big sporting events we have that trickle-down effect, that inspirational effect of elite athletes' success, the promotion of community, the boost to tourism, we have trade benefits, employment benefits, infrastructure benefits, better public facilities."

Sports Minister Richard Colbeck described the imminent flood of events as "unparalleled in our history", adding that Australia was seeking to "grow our reputation as the pre-eminent sporting host nation in the world."

According to government data, 14 million Australians participate in sport every year, millions attend live games and the sector generates about three percent of gross domestic product.

It delivers Aus$83 billion ($61 billion/£53.5billion/€61billion) of combined economic, health and educational benefits annually, with a return on investment of Aus$7 (£4.09/$4.70/€4.73) for every dollar spent, Sport 2030 has reported.

Rugby Australia chief executive Andy Marinos, who was involved in the Rugby World Cup bid, said it made a big difference having strong Government and public support.

"That's one of the benefits of operating in a country like Australia," he told SportsPro magazine. 

"Because there's such familiarity with having to host and engage on major events.

"The states and certainly the federal government are quite well versed in it so they understand that once you put a very compelling economic impact assessment in front of them, the decision-making process is relatively straightforward."

"It makes sense that, especially in rugby or the Commonwealth Games, for them [Australia] to host them again, because they’ve done it before they’ve got the expertise so they don’t have to buy it in," Eloy Mazon, chief executive of 4Global, a data company which has consulted on every Olympic Games since 2000, told City A.M.

"I think it’s very clever how they’re doing it because they can really focus. It’s almost like the event is done, they’re just going to deliver it. They know they’re going to do a good job."

"The Olympic and Paralympic Games are the pinnacle of global sporting events and Brisbane 2032 has catapulted our city onto the world stage," Brisbane’s Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner told City A.M.

"For us, this event is so much more than a few weeks of world-class sport at home. It’s about leveraging this opportunity to showcase our incredible part of the world to a global audience and deliver infrastructure that will continue to serve our city for decades to come."

Writing in The Guardian, Kieran Pender suggested that the imminent surge in events will throw an increasingly intense light upon the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in the national capital of Canberra.

"The future of the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), established in the early 1980s and the source of many medals over the decades, is unclear," he writes. 

Brisbane 2032 will
Brisbane 2032 will "catapulted our city onto the world stage" according to Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner ©Getty Images

"With its facilities ageing, it requires a major funding boost, a relocation (a move to Queensland to coincide with 2032 has been mooted) or a new approach entirely. 

"The crumbling infrastructure at the AIS’s leafy campus in Canberra is a poignant, if not entirely accurate, metaphor for the flagship programme’s uncertain outlook."

He adds that Australian sport will also have much work to do on ensuring safe, supportive environments and diversity among participants, athletes and leadership.

"Allegations of mistreatment in sport, contemporary and historic, and at all levels, are sadly all too commonplace," he writes. 

"It is hard to think of an Australian sport that has not been rocked by allegations of sexual harassment, sexism, racism or abuse in recent years."

Meanwhile the Brisbane 2032 Organising Committee has been pushing the slogan of getting  "Brisbane 2032 Ready", with President Andrew Liveris outlining some of its plans.

"People can expect the Organising Committee to focus on strategy development and planning over the next few years," he said.

"As we approach the Games, we will begin the readiness phase before entering Games operations mode in the months leading up to and during Games-time.

"The Brisbane 2032 Organising Committee will have only a small number of employees in the initial planning years, and then numbers will gradually ramp until they reach several thousand at Games time.

"Having said that, there are many other organisations, sporting federations, Government departments, councils and community associations that also play a significant role in the delivery of the Games, from start to finish.

"Across the 10-year project there will be opportunity for involvement, whether you’re an athlete, volunteer, spectator, sponsor, supplier, employee, contractor, artist, engineer, doctor or member of any other profession - Olympic and Paralympic Games draw on the skills and contributions of the entire community in the most innovative ways."