I was 13 years old when I visited my first World Expo in South Bank, Brisbane back in 1988.
What we now know as South Bank Parklands are the legacy of Expo 88, and I can still vividly remember my excitement as a kid, heading into the city after school to visit all the different countries’ pavilions and filling my ‘passport’ with their stamps.
Flash forward to this month, where I joined the Treasurer, The Honourable Cameron Dick to represent Queensland at the Australian Pavilion for Expo 2020 Dubai, held a little bit late (as so many other world events slated for 2020), from October 2021 until the end of March 2022.
‘Welcome to the World in One Place’ was the sign that greeted the 20 million visitors over the 6 month period from all over the world as they entered the gates of the biggest Expo ever.
192 countries representing their culture, their uniqueness, their visions for the future… and their food! Climate, sustainability and technology were, of course, big themes woven through the messages of all nations, as well as opportunity, mobility and connection.
At the Expo 2020 Dubai Australia Pavilion with Paralympian Curtis McGrath, Olympian Cate Campbell, Queensland Treasurer and Minister for Trade and Investment Cameron Dick MP, and Wattle the Koala
For nearly two weeks, I was immersed in conversations about sport technology, diplomacy, and of course, all things Brisbane 2032. I spoke numerous times about the incredible opportunities these Games will bring to Queensland, our elite performance success, and the pathways needed to get there.
Technologies like Web3.0, artificial intelligence, blockchain, NFTs and the Metaverse will soon touch every aspect of our lives, and the opportunities to harness these in sport are endless: from data analytics, augmented sports stadia through to enhanced athlete performance and fan engagement.
The Australian sport symposium and tech showcase was a eye-opening look at some of the Queensland companies leading the charge: wellbeing and behaviour change platform iNSPiRETEK, flight and race training simulation from Next Level Racing, human measurement systems from VALD Performance, and holograms and virtual reality from Axiom Holographics.
I was joined by athlete ambassadors, swimmer Cate Campbell and paracanoeist Curtis McGrath, who highlighted some of the exciting real-world applications: Cate spoke about enhanced use of data and technology to increase performance success, and even choose the most effective relay teams. And while Curtis doesn’t use his prosthetics in competition, he shared how new advancements will improve inclusion and quality of life for those who rely on them – both in everyday life and competing at the highest levels of parasport.
The Australian pavilion also sponsored a day for women in sport, with FIFA’s Secretary General Fatma Samoura sharing some amazing insights into the world game! The Middle East was also a focus, with Qatar hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup in November, and we then set sights on Australia and New Zealand as the FIFA Women’s World Cup hosts for 2023, which also doubles as a great opportunity to begin engaging with the World for Brisbane 2032!
Sports inclusion and Sport across our Oceania region were more hot topics: how can we uplift sport in Pacific nations like Fiji, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea? Having worked with and supported athletes from Vanuatu for many years, this one is especially close to my heart. I’ve watched their beach volleyball players develop their talent since back when I was competing, and saw it pay off with their 2018 Commonwealth Games bronze medal on the Gold Coast.
We also talked about sports diplomacy; a notion that’s been around for a long time, however we now have the language and data to really articulate it. This looks different for every country. In Australia, sport is in our blood and its part in building relations – from the grassroots level to internationally – comes very naturally to us. However, for many other nations, using sport and athletes in a truly diplomatic sense opens up a whole different landscape of opportunities.
Expo is completely unique as a world platform. It’s an opportunity for the global community to gather, connect, share stories and visions for the future. For Australia, a country that often feels so far and foreign to the rest of the world, it was a chance to broadcast our essence – amplifying the stories of our First Nations people, sharing the symbols of our golden wattle and beloved koala mascot, right through to the cutting-edge ideas that will build stronger relations with the world and lead us into the future.
And if you think talks of 2032 are futuristic, you would have been blown away by the Expo 2020 Museum of the Future that launched us into 2071! Thought-provoking is an understatement when we consider what the world will look and feel like 50 years from now. The ways we interact with each other, what sustainability looks like and how we can plant the seeds now for our – and our kids’, and their kids’ – future.
It is always an honour to be a Queensland ambassador on the world stage and as I share the Queenslander story it continues to propel my vision and enthusiasm for what’s in store as we all forge forward to Brisbane 2032.
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