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AOC’s Coates calls for improvements to school sport
Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) President John Coates has suggested that Australia's disappointing medals haul at the London 2012 Olympic Games is a result of a decline in sport in schools.
In an interview on ABC News 24, Coates said Australia's low medal count in London was a sign the Federal Government needed to consider changing its policy and funding to give priority to school sports.
Coates stated "perhaps the area that needs a lot of attention - and if not, funding and government intention in terms of policy - is getting sport back into the school curricula.
"The British are making a big thing of that being one of the legacies they're looking towards, and they've been achieving that, a greater emphasis on sport in the schools.
"We need that because we've got to make sure we have a talent pool."
Coates admitted Australia was unlikely to reach its aim of finishing in the top-five position in Games, adding "we'd need to do something equivalent to (our medal placing) at Beijing (in 2008), which would be 45 medals, or something like that.
"We won't get there. Principally it's because in swimming we got 20 medals in the last Olympic Games and here (in London) we got 10.
"We had a dependency on swimming, but you do need a number of sports in which you can multi-medal."
Federal Sports Minister Kate Lundy defended the performance of athletes at the Games, stating "I know a great case has been made for sport in that national curriculum, so we'll see how that plays out.
"I do agree though, there's so much evidence that sport in schools brings not just health benefits, but improved academic outcomes as well.
"We need to take stock of our high performance program, but our athletes are not failing us, they're bringing home bags of silver medals."
Senator Lundy said the issue of sport in schools was one for states and territories to decide.
John Coates' call for improvements to school sport to both foster the next generation of elite athletes and improve health and fitness outcomes for young Australians has been welcomed by the Australian Sporting Goods Association (ASGA).
ASGA Executive Director Shannon Walker added "these Olympics may well prove to be a watershed moment in Australian sporting history. We have an opportunity now to reflect on how we fund sports in this country and I agree with Mr Coates that we need to make improvements in our school sports programs.
"Sport in Australia brings communities together, improves health and fitness outcomes of people of all ages, employs thousands of people and, perhaps most importantly, gives enjoyment to millions of Australians every week.
"In particular, getting more Australian children playing sport at school and in after-hours and weekend programs makes sense from a health and fitness perspective and as the early foundation for elite sports training."
However, sport has not been included as a mandatory element in the new national school curriculum for health and physical education which is set to be introduced in 2014.
While Australia's lean medal count has led to national soul-searching, New Zealand has been able to celebrate three early medals in rowing. On a medal table based on national population New Zealand, with just over four million citizens, would be in first place ahead of Slovenia.
9th December 2009 - OBESITY EXPERTS CRITICAL OF ACTIVE AFTER-SCHOOL PROGRAM
28th October 2009 - COATES DEMANDS FEDERAL MONEY FOR SPORT
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