Race to Obesity
CHIP LE GRAND, THE AUSTRALIAN
Dire consequences unless Canberra commits to sports funding, Game Chief warns.
Australian Olympic chief Matt Carroll has urged the Morrison government to commit a further $60 million a year towards Olympic and Paralympic sport, warning current funding levels are condemning a once-proud sporting nation to greater levels of obesity and “social mediocrity’’.
In his strongest public foray since taking charge of the Australian Olympic Committee, Mr Carroll used a speech to the National Press Club in Canberra to outline a strategic shift for the AOC and back calls by prominent Olympians for government to restore adequate public funding to Australian sport.
Mr Carroll said the government’s national sports plan, a long-term strategy unveiled earlier this year to strengthen communities and improve health outcomes through greater participation in sport, was doomed to fail unless more money was injected into the cash-strapped sports system. The AOC chief executive also warned Australia would lose its sporting diversity if professional sporting codes, aided by billiondollar government investments in new stadiums, cornered the market for the best sporting talent.
“If the funding trend continues for Olympic sports, results at Games will decline, and in time so will participation, leading to a very small talent pool and therefore relevance as a sport,’’ he told the National Press Club.
“This once great sporting nation, so proud of its diversity, punching above its weight, will be confined to a few sports played by only a few and the rest will be faded pictures of past heroes.
“The only gold medals won will be the races to the most obese nation and social mediocrity.’’
Mr Carroll’s call for greater sports funding follows yesterday’s publication of an open letter signed by more than 40 Australian Olympians and sporting greats decrying the “pathetic funding version of the Hunger Games’’ across Olympic sports.
The letter, signed by revered sporting names including Herb Elliott, Raelene Boyle, Kieren Perkins, Ian Thorpe, James Tomkins, Glynis Nunn-Cearns, Lauren Jackson and Cadel Evans, was written by former Wallabies captain Phil Kearns after he discovered the parlous state of sports funding through his daughter’s involvement in an Australian junior water polo team. Kearns has vowed to take his concerns directly to Scott Morrison.
Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie, who yesterday announced additional top-up funding of $50m for high-performance sport to be spread over the remaining two years before the Tokyo Games, joined Kearns and other prominent sporting figures at the press club for Mr Carroll’s address.
Mr Carroll announced a new direction for the Olympic movement in Australia.
He said the AOC was committed to closer and better collaboration with the Australian Institute of Sport, and the government’s peak sporting agency, Sport Australia, and had begun rolling out a schools program where Olympians will endeavour to visit more than four million students.
The AOC plans to take a large team to Tokyo, about 480 athletes across 36 sports. It will not set a medal target. “We’ve listened to the athletes who say medal targets don’t help,’’ Mr Carroll said.
Australia’s tally of 29 medals at Rio in 2016 was the country’s smallest return since Barcelona 26 years ago. The declining medal tally coincides with a shrinking sports budget.
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