CATHY critical of Aths Aus cash grab

Cash up or Brits will steal our Olympic dream
Email Print Normal font Large font By Phillip Hudson, Kenneth Nguyen
February 26, 2006

BRITAIN could overtake Australia as one of the top four Olympic nations unless the Federal Government invests significantly more money in sport.

On the eve of what is tipped to be a record Australian medal at the Commonwealth Games, sport chiefs have raised concerns whether Australia will be as competitive in the Beijing and London Olympics as it was in Sydney and Athens.

Britain has laid out an ambitious plan to seize Australia’s place as the fourth-ranked Olympic nation by doubling its annual spending on athletes to $260 million, while China, Japan, Korea, India and the US are also spending more.

The Australian Sports Commission receives $160 million, of which about $110 million is for Olympic and elite sports. Most Australian sports say they need extra funds to deliver the medal results the public expects. Their collective wish-list is worth tens of millions of dollars.

Athletics Australia chief Danny Corcoran told The Sunday Age his sport needed $10 million on top of its annual budget of $6 million.

“We are being asked to take on China with a budget of $6 million, which is the same amount as the player list of a small AFL club,” he said.

"I certainly believe we need a lot more funding to be put into the sport, not only for success at Olympic Games but to entice and hold our talented athletes.

“We can’t have our elite athletes living hand-to-mouth throughout their career because they are desperate to represent their country.”

Federal Sports Minister Rod Kemp has said he is aware of the concerns and has asked the Australian Sports Commission to prepare a report on the competitive environment facing sport, ahead of the May 9 budget.

In a speech unreported at the time, Senator Kemp told a Melbourne luncheon on Australia Day: "The Australian success on the sporting field is under a great challenge.

“The Chinese Olympic team in Beijing will be super competitive. Other countries such as the US, Japan and Korea will be making a huge effort to meet this Chinese challenge. The British are getting their sporting act together …”

Gold medallist Cathy Freeman expressed doubt as to England’s ability to overtake Australia. “The English said that? They usually don’t back themselves.” She agreed much talent was likely going unspotted but laid the blame on administrators, rather than funding

“I don’t know whether there’s any lack of funding. It’s (a question of) where the money gets allocated to,” Freeman said. “It’s definitely a responsibility of Athletics Australia. They should be welcoming criticism … I’m incredibly critical of the way they manage the sport that I love.”

Senator Kemp yesterday said he would not comment on budget speculation.