‘Arms race’ for medals too rich for Australia

‘Arms race’ for medals too rich for Australia

Australian sporting success would no longer be measured solely by Olympic medals and world titles, with the country acknowledging that it could not compete financially with larger countries.

The Australian Sports Commission, which has been rebranded as Sport Australia, released its national strategy for the next 12 years — Sport 2030, and recognised they had been slipping behind countries since the turn of the century.

“High performance sport has become an ultra-competitive arms race, where countries pour hundreds of millions of dollars into elite programs aimed at landing gold medals and pushing nations higher up the Olympic medal table,” the report said. “Since the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Australia’s international sporting performance has been in decline with a decrease in both medals and medallists. While we’ll never stop striving to be the best in the world in as many sports as possible, our aspirations must acknowledge that success in high performance sport is correlated to investment and we should measure our performance using more than just the medal table. The measurement of success must now also include the impact of athletes as role models, their engagement with the community, and delivering a respected system.”

Australia has often defined itself by its relative sporting success on the global stage. At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, the country won a national record 58 medals and finished fourth on the table behind the United States, Russia and China.

That tally has slowly decreased at every Games since, with the team winning just 29 medals at Rio in 2016 and finishing 10th on the table.

The ASC is the main sports funding body in the country but had been involved in a public battle with the independent Australian Olympic Committee after the Rio Games.

One of the criticisms of the ASC’s “Winning Edge” strategy, implemented after the London games in 2012, was that it targeted elite sports at the cost of grassroots and community sports. The new policy will put greater focus on the lower levels of sports in an effort to get the country more active.

The AOC gave lukewarm support to the new plan but encouraged the government to continue funding both sectors.

“We support the plan’s insight that success in high performance sport is correlated to investment,” AOC chief executive Matt Carroll said in a statement. “This investment is not just about medals but outcomes that inspire young Australians to take up sport and be the best they can. An appropriately funded high performance and participation environment will return the dividend the government is seeking.”

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