August 10, 2012 ·6 Comments
SYDNEY — Australia’s performance at the London Olympics, its worst result in 20 years, has cost taxpayers $10.6 million for each medal won.
The effort of Britain, the host and Australia’s arch-rival, which has easily eclipsed Australia’s effort in Sydney in 2000, cost significantly less at $7.5 million, the Herald has established. Britain is expected to finish third in the medal tally.
The figures do not take into account Steve Hooker’s pole vault final, which was to be held overnight. Britain and Australia still have medal hopes in other events in the remaining days of competition.
The data reveal that the Australian Institute of Sport spent a record $310 million of public money on the Olympics campaign. Swimming, with one gold medal in the women’s 4×100 metres freestyle relay, took nearly $39 million of that, over four years. Australia’s swimmers won six gold medals in Beijing (2008) and seven in Athens (2004).
Its budget has almost doubled since 2009, in preparation for these Games. The last time Australia failed to win an individual swimming gold was at Montreal in 1976, when its feeble overall performance (one silver and five bronzes) led the Fraser government to pump money into the creation of the institute. Swimming Australia has ordered a review of this year’s performance.
The athletics medals – Sally Pearson’s thrilling hurdles gold and Mitchell Watt’s gutsy long jump silver – cost the most, at $15.5 million. Cycling gets the same amount of money as athletics at $31 million. Its five medals were $6.2 million each.While spending on marquee sports such as swimming, athletics, sailing and rowing has in some cases doubled in recent years, the amount available for less visible sports has flatlined.
Volleyball, water polo and diving have barely registered an increase, though all have the potential to reap medals. The men’s volleyball team failed to advance in the competition but this week beat Poland, considered the best team in the world.
The institute and the Australian Sports Commission classify sports in tiers based on factors such as participation, governance, medal potential and cultural relevance.
”We aim to be a tier-one sport, like basketball,” said the operations manager of the Australian Volleyball Federation, Cheryl Bollard. ”But we don’t have enough money to take it to that next level of bringing home medals.”
Volleyball receives $3 million a year, not enough to compete in the world league. Water polo gets the same but its women’s team won a bronze medal. Diving gets even less at about $2 million a year; the Gold Coast schoolgirl Brittany Broben, 16, won silver in the women’s 10m platform event.
Australia’s chef de mission at the London Games, Nick Green, said the successes in sailing and Sally Pearson’s four-year plan since the Beijing Games were two good case studies that would be investigated urgently.
”What is sailing doing right?” he asked. ”What did Sally Pearson do? What can we learn from those stories?”
For some the message is to stop clamouring for medals and start tempering unrealistic and unhealthy expectations.
The president of the Geelong AFL club, Colin Carter, was on the committee which, in the 2009 Crawford report on the future of sport, recommended more funding for grassroots sport.
”The way success is measured is silly,” he said yesterday. ”Gold is a pretty narrow measure and it leads to unrealistic expectation and it also leads to a situation where something pretty terrific has been turned into a defeat.
”In a world of massive countries spending a fortune on the Olympics, that is a race that it isn’t smart to even compete in. So don’t value success in that way.”
- The Age
August 10, 2012Follow @somalilandpress