Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Olympic dreams hit for six by funding row

THE long-awaited Crawford report into sport says Australia has to stop being an international over-achiever and learn to be satisfied with a ''realistic'' top 10 Olympic result.
In 39 controversial recommendations to the Federal Government, the businessman David Crawford says Olympic success is expensive and funding would be better directed to big professional sports and those which reflect the national psyche.
The report drew immediate criticism from the president of the Australian Olympic Committee, John Coates, who said Mr Crawford, who is on the board of BHP Billiton and Lend Lease, and his panel were not qualified to comment on elite and international sport. The report rejected a plea from Olympic and Paralympic sports for an immediate injection of $100 million to halt the recent funding decline.
The report says the money could be better spent on sports with stronger participation, such as Australian rules, cricket, rugby league, rugby union, football and netball.
''The panel strongly believes the public needs to be educated to think differently about what constitutes Olympic success,'' the report says.
''This will mean more explicitly defining elite sporting success in the context of prioritising those sports which capture the country's imagination and represent its spirit and culture. These are the sports where our performance on the national and world stage is important to our sense of success as a nation.
''There should be debate about which sports carry the national ethos. Swimming, tennis, cricket, cycling, the football codes, netball, golf, hockey, basketball, surfing and surf lifesaving are among the most popular sports in Australia, a part of the national psyche.''
Mr Crawford did not mention track and field, which has strong Olympic memories through Herb Elliott, Marjorie Jackson, Betty Cuthbert, Cathy Freeman and Steve Hooker. He criticised funding of sports such as canoeing, taekwondo and archery.
The report says that based on attendance, ratings, sponsorship and participation, cricket, Australian rules and rugby league deserve more funding.
But Mr Coates said the report was disrespectful and ignorant. The big professional sports already accessed the public purse through superior sporting infrastructure and benefited financially from big crowds at games and broadcast revenues.
''Is Mr Crawford saying that BHP and Lend Lease should not aspire to be number one and they should close down their overseas operations and concentrate on aspects of their business that are the bits publicly supported in Australia?'' Mr Coates said.Read More.....


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