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Dash for Olympic Sporting Cash?

Dash for Olympic Sporting Cash?
August 25, 2008

As the Olympic Games close, Australian sporting bodies are believed to be preparing a $200 million funding wish-list for Government.

Highlighting a "worse than expected medal haul from Beijing" yesterday's Sydney newspaper The Sun Herald, reported that "in an attempt to keep pace with the massive funds being injected into British sport Australian Olympic Committee President John Coates has already started lobbying the Federal Government."

The Sun Herald reported that Coates and the major sports are believed to be looking for a funding scheme similar to the $135 million six-year plan that was injected into sport in the lead-up to the successful Sydney games in 2000. Taking rising costs and inflation into account, this could see Coates looking for at least $200 million

Massive amounts of money (around £100 million a year) going into British sport from the UK National Lottery, with the resultant rise in the Team GB medal tally in Beijing, are leading to calls for similar funding for Australian sport. On Channel Nine's Sunday Morning News, Federal Opposition Leader Dr Brendan Nelson stated that "we will look at a sports lottery and I would be very happy to have the Government with us examine the prospects for a sports lottery in Australia, how it might actually work."

Before the Beijing Games, Coates highlighted future funding aspirations, stating that "I am anxious to put this on the table now, not wheel it out in response to a bad performance here."

Forecast to win between 42 and 48 medals, Australia finished sixth on the Beijing medals table with 46 medals (including 14 gold). However, the Australian Olympic movement has suggested that this relative lack of success justifies massive increases in funding for elite sport.

The Sun Herald reported that swim coach Alan Thompson said Australian sport was "on the verge of a crisis" without a large funding injection while Opposition sport spokesman Pat Farmer said Australia needed to spend more, stating "if we're seen as a bunch of losers who can't win a medal, people will think they don't want their money being wasted."

Yet, is finishing sixth behind countries with vastly larger populations really a failure? In addition, with the once unique Australian elite sport development model now replicated around the world, can Australia continue to achieve Olympic success at levels seen in Olympic Games over the past 20 years?

In May, when launching an inquiry into the efficiency of elite sport funding and has talked down the prospect of big increases, Federal Sport Minister Kate Ellis stated "we're never going to be able to compete dollar for dollar with much larger populations and economies, and when you look at it per capita, Australians are incredibly generous," adding that "any further funding has to be weighed up against other priorities for Government."




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