Why did Australia under perform at London 2012?
Can the Boomers beat Spain in 2012 London Olympics Basketball? Image: MARK RALSTON / AFP
Another Olympics has been done and dusted with London delivering a terrific Games. It has been helped by Team GB’s performances where they have come third in the medal tally with 29 gold, 17 silver and 19 bronze with 65 medals in total.
Australia, on the other hand, had a tough London 2012. By Day 10 of competition, Australia only managed one gold medal. But thankfully in the second week, Australia has produced better results and ended up with seven gold, 16 silver and 12 bronze with 35 medals in total to finish in 10th place.
Out of those seven gold medals, what is interesting is that all of them came from athletes from NSW and Queensland. So basically the other states of Australia produced zero gold medals.
Victoria, a state whose population is second highest behind NSW, had a quiet Olympic Games. While Melbourne have always laid claim to be the sporting capital of Australia, if not the world, it didn’t deliver any gold medals, which is a sign of not only under-acheivement but perhaps embarrassment.
It’s not like Melbourne doesn’t have world-class facilities for Victorian-born athletes to use. Recently in 2006 Melbourne hosted the Commonwealth Games, host annual major events like Australin Open tennis, and have world-class facilities.
The AOC (Australian Olympic Commitee) has perhaps been a little obsessed with the funding issue, but maybe the AOC should start reviewing how each state performs as far as producing athletes is concerned. That along with reviewing each individual sport.
Before looking at each individual sport, I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate all of our athletes who have taken part in London. Whether they won a medal or not, making the Olympics Games is a huge achievement in itself.
Here are Australia’s gold medal winning athletes:
Sprint:Anna Meares (QLD).
100m Hurdles: Sally Pearson (QLD) although born in Sydney.
Womens 4 x 100m Relay: Cate Campbell, Melanie Schlanger, Brittany Elmslie, Alicia Coutts, Libby Trickett, Yolane Kukla and Emily Seebohm (QLD). Although Seebohm was born in Adelaide, she moved to Queensland aged three.
Laser: Tom Slingsby (NSW).
470 Class: Malcolm Page (NSW) and Mnatthew Belcher (QLD).
49er Class: Iain Jensen and Nathan Outteridge (NSW).
K4 1000: David Smith (NSW), Tate Smith (QLD), Jake Clear (QLD) and Murray Stewart (NSW) although born in South Africa.
As you can see, no sign of (VIC) anywhere.
In the last four years of the Olympic cycle, the AOC has had a battle on their hands to get funding. When the 2010 Federal Budget was handed down, the AOC was to receive an extra $195 million in funding over four years.
However, weeks after the budget, the Australian Sports Commission told the AOC that the funds would be frozen because of the upcoming 2010 Federal Election campaign.
I get the feeling that John Coates and the AOC would’ve been having kittens with that announcement. It even got better (worse) for the AOC when the Federal Election result was undecided on election night.
It meant that Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition leader Tony Abbot had to woo in the Independents and the Greens so they could form a minority government. Seventeen days after the election, Gillard was elected as Prime Minister thanks to the support of the two Independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakshott and the Green vote in the form of Andrew Wilkie.
Was getting funds at this point in time too little too late as far as London 2012 was concerned?
Also with sports funding as a whole, are our major football codes getting more for what there entitled to? Here is three examples:
Firstly, the NRL will receive $45 million dollars from the NSW state government to keep a major event like the NRL Grand Final in Sydney until 2022. Let’s be honest, was the NRL Grand Final going anywhere?
Secondly, the Federal Government chimed in $8 million dollars to help “for all levels of football in western Sydney”. In a round about sort of way, the Federal government is funding A-Leagues new western Sydney team, Western Sydney Wanderers. If the FFA wasn’t so incompetent with their expansion plans in the past like North Queensland Fury and Gold Coast United, it wouldn’t be in this position to ask for more governments handouts.
Thirdly, the AFL somehow got the NSW State Government to fund two venues for GWS Giants, one in Blacktown, the other the Showgrounds (Skoda Stadium) at Olympic Park, next door to ANZ Stadium. Was it really necessary to fund to two venues, especially where AFL is a minor sport in Sydney?
Is this money spent on our already well funded major football code worthwhile? Even the FFA, who doesn’t have a massive television deal at the present time, has a chairman in Frank Lowy who is a multi-billionaire.
Getting back to the AOC, funding should not be the only issue for Australia’s decline in London. Maybe preparation is another. An example is our swimming team, which delivered a solitary gold in London.
Our swimming trials were held in March, five months out from the Games. A question needs to be asked, should we have our trials closer to the Olympics? The United States have their trials a month out from the Games, so maybe its a consideration the administrators of Australian swimming should look into.
Peaking too early five months out, perhaps a loss of form over that period is always a possibility.
An example of that is 100m freestyle swimmer James Roberts. In the trials he swam 47.63 seconds. That time would have won him bronze in London behind Nathan Adrian (47.52) and James Magnussen (47.53). Instead Roberts missed out on the Olympic final altogether. What happened?
As for Magnuessen, in the trials he swam 47.10. Same question, what happened?
There’s all this talk that some of our coaches have been poached by other countries, whether its in swimming, cycling or rowing, where other countries are offering our coaches more lucrative contracts than what Australia has to offer.
How Australia stops the ‘brain drain” is something the AOC has to figure out. Interestingly, in those three sports Australia won two gold medals, while Team GB won 12 gold in the rowing and cycling alone. To me that’s where the damage was done. Of course we shouldn’t forget America in the swimming where they won 16 gold medals.
So Australia finds itself in position where it needs to find solutions if it wants the Australian Olympic team to get back higher up the medal tally. Do we put all of our money on the elite athletes, or use that same money and re-direct it at grassroots to help build infrastructure that’s required?
The one major positive that has come from London 2012 has been the performance of our sailing team, where they won three gold and came within a whisker of a fourth in the women’s Elliot 6m, eventually settling for silver to cap off a great time for our sailors.
It looks as though the sailing team are doing something right. Perhaps it is a blueprint that other sports like swimming should follow. We could always concentrate on what went wrong, but with our sailing team, we should also concentrate on what went right!
However, to throw a spanner in the works, the NSW institute of Sport wants to dump the sailing program. Maybe it’s an issue around funding? A real pity, when you consider that seven from the eight sailing medalists are from NSW.
If the AOC wants to continue on pressing with the funding issue, than it maybe it’s time they start becoming independent, look for revenue streams, and don’t rely so much on the Federal Government.
Watching the Olympics and seeing someone like Usain Bolt run, it got me thinking, why don’t the AOC bring in major events to Australia like a World Athletics Championships? If it’s marketed well, the costs are in check and more importantly one can make a profit out of it, so why not pursue such major events?
Of course the tricky part of the equation is which stadium in the country would it be held in. Would it be the white elephant that is the Queensland Sport and Athletic Centre in Brisbane, the old home ground of NRL’s Brisbane Broncos?
ANZ Stadium or M.C.G where they need to outlay the running track? Again, it’s something the AOC needs to consider. Than again it may not be World Athletics Championships, it could be other events. You could have the world titles of weightlifting, handball or whatever coming to Australia.
The point I’m trying to make is over a four-year Olympic cycle, Australia should try to get major events from the Olympics sports, whether big or small. With it comes the possibility of generating revenue.
We do have the facilities to cater for these events, so why not?
In the end, what London 2012 proved is that Australia has some thinking and work to do if it wants to have success in the next Olympic games in Rio and beyond.
The AOC needs to have strategy and planning in place and not always rely on government handouts.
Before I conclude, here is something delightful. Coming from the Illawarra region, an hours drive south from Sydney, we have an athlete that won a gold medal in David Smith, who was part of the Canoe Sprint, K4 1000. That means that the Illawarra region ended up having more gold medals than Victoria in London 2012!
It’s a nice jibe from yours truly, but here is a message to all Victorian athletes when they go to Rio 2016: fire up!