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Australia facing Olympic funding crisis

Australia facing Olympic funding crisis
September 21, 2009

Australian sport is on the verge of a funding crisis and needs a cash injection if the country is to stay among the elite nations at the Olympic Games, according to Head Swimming Coach Alan Thompson.

Thompson, who oversaw Australia's record haul of 20 swimming medals from the 2008 Beijing Games, said Australian sport faces a crisis if more money is not forthcoming, stating "we are on the verge of a crisis in Australian sport if we don't get any help.

"We've been able to be successful with swimming just getting by, despite reductions in real terms in our funding."

Thompson said that Australia's number of medals at Olympics was reflected by the amount of Government help in the past, adding "as we've gone through with increased funding, so has our medal tally increased."

Australia, with its population of just 21 million, finished fourth behind major powers United States, China and Russia at the last two Olympic Games, but this status is under threat.

Other nations are investing massive sums of money in sport, and echoing Australia's sports development and institute systems, even going as far as poaching Australian coaches.

In preparation for hosting the 2012 Olympic Games, the British government is pouring another $855 million, targeting Australia's fourth place on the medals tally.

John Coates, President of the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) and Chairman of the Australian Olympic Foundation has warned that Australia was in danger of slipping out of the top ten in the Olympic medal tally altogether within the next two Olympic cycles if funding levels were not significantly increased.

Speaking at the recent Sports Business World conference in Sydney, Craig Phillips, Secretary General of the AOC, highlighted that "to secure our standing in Olympic sport, our nine-year high performance plan requires funding of at least $230 million a year."

However, Phillips conceded that, with current funding at less than half of that level, the AOC was looking at commercial partners and the Federal Government to make up that shortfall.

Speaking at the same event, Federal Minister for Sport, Kate Ellis gave a strong indication that the Federal Government's sport funding objectives will shift from elite sport to community recreation, stating that "extra funding for sport is not the answer."

Also speaking at the Sports Business World conference, newly appointed Australian Sports Commission Chief Executive Matt Miller followed the same line, adding that "sport needs to be less reliant on Government funding."

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