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In 1942 Brisbane was the site of a violent clash between visiting US military personnel and Australian servicemen and civilians which resulted in one death and hundreds of injuries.

The city is a popular tourist destination, serving as a gateway to the state of Queensland, particularly to the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast, popular resort areas immediately south and north of Brisbane, respectively.

Several large cultural, international and sporting events have been held at Brisbane, including the 1982 Commonwealth Games, World Expo '88, the final Goodwill Games in 2001, and the 2014 G-20 summit.

Sir Thomas Brisbane visited the settlement and travelled 28 miles up the Brisbane River in December 1824, bestowing upon Brisbane the distinction of being the only Australian capital city set foot upon by its namesake.

German missionaries settled at Zions Hill, Nundah as early as 1837, five years before Brisbane was officially declared a free settlement.

A penal settlement was founded in 1824 at Redcliffe, 28 kilometres (17 mi) north of the central business district, but was soon abandoned and moved to North Quay in 1825, opening to free settlement in 1842.

The city was marred by the Australian frontier wars between 18, and development was partly set back by the Great Fire of Brisbane, and the Great Brisbane Flood.

In 2016, the Globalization and World Cities Research Network ranked Brisbane as a Beta world city.