AUSTRALIA’S Olympic athletes will train and compete regularly in Beijing over the next three years thanks to an historic co-operation agreement signed yesterday by the Australian and Chinese Olympic Committees.
AOC President John Coates, flanked by dual 1500 metres Olympic champion Grant Hackett, signed the deal in Beijing with the Chinese Olympic Committee President Yuan Weiman.
The AOC believes the co-operation agreement will allow athletes to better understand the culture and the landscape in China as they prepare for the Games there in 2008.
Under the agreement Australian sporting teams will train with the Chinese as well as take part in their National and International events and Olympic Test Events.
Australia’s coaches, trainers, judges, officials, experts and scientists will attend seminars and courses and exchange ideas beneficial to both countries.
Our teams can come to Beijing and train and compete with the Chinese who are a superpower in so many sports and we will derive great benefit,'' Coates said. We want to make this our second home if you like and to again finish in the top five nations in 2008 we need to be familiar with the landscape and culture.’’
Coates said the Australian team that competed at the Seoul Olympics in 1988 was disadvantaged because the athletes did not understand the culture.
``With China finishing second on the medal tally in Athens and Australia finishing fourth we form a powerful combination.’’
The Chinese will send their biggest-ever team to Sydney in January for the 2005 Australian Youth Olympic Festival. 173 athletes and 55 coaches and officials.
The AOC is aiming for another top five finish in Beijing after winning 49 medals in Athens to claim 4th place on the medal tally.
Our athletes are out there training and we need to start work as well and provide them with the best planning and preparation possible,'' Coates said. The AOC campaign for 2008 begins now.’’
The AOC is providing $8.2million to its member sports towards the cost of international competition in the leadup to 2008.
Coates is hoping the 28 Olympic sports spend their funding grants on competition and training camps in China as part of the overall plan to make Beijing familiar turf for all of our Olympians.