Friendly, loud and a little daggy: don’t let the Olympics change Brisbane too much | Katherine Feeney

ICYMI the Olympics and Paralympics are coming to Queensland. For the record, I’m excited. I’m here for the Games and the coming-of-age potential they promise. I was barely alive when the last big moment for Brisbane happened. BNE 2032 will be the Expo 88 of my generation.

There is just one teensy, tiny, little concern I have about the whole shebang. It’s a concern that anyone in a long-term relationship can relate to. You see, I love and have loved Brisbane for a while now and I rather hope it doesn’t ever really change.

Grow up, mature, develop, sure, but don’t change. Come of age, but don’t change, Brisbane. Take Expo, for example: it helped bring about alfresco dining and South Bank and an affinity with polite public queueing, but much of what is good about the city remained the same. Shiny new things came and some shiny new things went, but Brisbane was still Brisbane in 1989; still a bit weird, still a bit awkward and more than a little bit daggy in the very best of ways.


Yeah, nah?

OK. How do I love Brisbane? Let me count the ways.

I love Brisbane to the depth, length and breadth of its winding river. Thelma Plum has it perfectly when she sings of a brown snake love bite. Nowhere near as pretty, glittery and look-at-me-gorgeous as the harbour in Sydney, Maiwar is beautiful, in her own way. Indeed that’s the charm of this River City. It’s not obvious, you have to look for it. But it is there.

It’s there in the way we say “thanks” to bus drivers when hopping off. It’s there when we say “G’day” to people passing by on the street.

I’ve tossed a few “G’days” out on the Coogee-to-Bondi walk before; I was nearly escorted from the area. I tried it in Toorak too and the only “G’day” I got back was my echo.

Relatively random friendliness and openness is something that sets Queensland’s capital city apart from others down under. But the bigger this city gets, the more this friendliness is at risk. Here’s hoping when the Games get here, we’re still giving “G’days” with gusto.

Here’s hoping we’re also still dressing and swearing with gusto too. Don’t know about you, but I love the full-blown, borderline garish use of colour in this city, both in cloth and in tongue.

Compared with the hushed hues of Hobart, the million shades of shadow in Melbourne, or the sun-bleached-surf-foam of Sydney, Brisbane is all bright, blinding, roaring colour and it’s a loudness I don’t want turned down.

Listen carefully and you can hear the vivid blueness of the state’s wide horizons embedded in the way Queenslanders talk, if you can’t see it in the way they like to dress.


Yes, from time to time, you might find yourself wincing at a riot of bold tones at the races, or the missin’ of the letter G. But you’ll also come to marvel at the mastery of profane punctuation, the good sense the word “youse” actually makes, and the way a vivid pair of togs, confidently worn, can really boost the mood.

Let’s not mute ourselves, Brisbane, just because the Games are nearly here. Let’s instead raise a pot (definitely not a middy, ten or handle) to this River City and Sunshine State.

Allow me to set the countdown clock, purposefully ignoring daylight saving, and commence preparation for the Games with genuine sunniness and Queensland keenness.

Time will march on, change will creep in, but, ’ken oath Brisbane, let’s not forget the humble joy of staying down to earth.

Katherine Feeney is a journalist and broadcaster who presents Afternoons on ABC Radio Brisbane.