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SBD Global/August 8, 2012/Olympics

AOC Calls For More Government Funding, But Has $100M Sitting In The Bank

Australia's Sally Pearson celebrates after winning the 100m hurdles Tuesday, a rare bright spot for the Aussies.
Australian Olympic Committee President John Coates has been calling "for more taxpayer funding of elite sports" at the same time as financial accounts show that his organization sits atop $100M in funds, according to Ben Butler of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. The money, invested in shares and property funds by related Australian Olympic Foundation, would be "enough to fund at least 700 athletes to attend the nation's top school for elite sportsmen and women," the Australian Institute of Sport, for five years. Speaking from London, the head of the foundation's investment committee and former Liberal leader John Hewson said it was "absolutely" worthwhile investing the money rather than spending it. Besides being president of the AOC, for which he is paid $482,000 annually, Coates is Chair of the foundation. The Australian government spends about $170M a year on elite athletes, with "most of that focused on Olympic sports" (SMH, 8/8). Also in Sydney, Le Grand & Parnell wrote that "if dollars make the difference between silver and gold," as the IOC's Kevan Gosper contends, "then our swimmers should have scooped the pool in London." The swimmer, already the best funded team in Australia's Olympic squad, were given a 60% rise to boost our medal prospects. On top of the $4.26M funding during the last financial year, the swimmers were also granted a further $3M. The additional money took the funds invested by the Australian Sports Commission in high-performance swimming in the four years leading up to the London Games to $28.6M. Supporting evidence that money is a difference maker can be found in Australia's performance in sailing, which was allocated $2M in new funding to bring the budget to $4.7M for its final year of preparations. In comparison with Australia's sole Gold Medal from the pool, the two Gold Medals won by Australian sailors "came at a bargain price" of $17M over four years. Elsewhere, additional money "was invested in athletes who were unable to put themselves into medal contention, and in some instances in athletes who failed to make the trip to London" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 8/8).

THE COST OF GOLD: In London, Donna Bowater wrote that a total of 38 Medals going into day 11 puts Britain "on course for one of the country's most successful Games" with the chance to win more than 19 Gold Medals for the first time in 104 years. U.K. Sport's funding received £264M ($412.8M) this year, largely from investment through the National Lottery. If British athletes meet projections of collecting 57 medals, the funding equates £4.6M ($7.2M) per medal compared to £2.1M ($3.3M) for each of Britain's 28 medals in Sydney. In total, a combined total of 143 medals to date since '00 has cost just more than £4M ($6.26M) per medal (TELEGRAPH, 8/7). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Sandra Hu reported on its China Real Time Report blog that "the cost of grooming China's new Olympic swimming star," Sun Yang, amounted to 10M yuan ($1.57M) over the past two years. Chinese Internet users are asking: "has it all been worth it?" The question hinges on whether China "has better things to spend its money on" (WSJ, 8/7).
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