Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 6 No. 212


Swimming, the long-term flag-bearer of Australia's Olympic campaign, "is no longer a protected species when it comes to government funding decisions," according to Nicole Jeffery of THE AUSTRALIAN. The Australian Sports Commission demonstrated that "by cutting support for both banner Olympic sports, swimming and athletics," when it announced a new elite funding formula Monday. The ASC had warned there would be "winners and losers" in a repositioning of Australia's sports system, designed to return Australia to the top five on the Olympic medal tally at the Rio Games in '16. ASC CEO Simon Hollingsworth said the commission believed top five was a "realistically attainable goal" and funding had been adjusted to favor the sports most capable of producing medals over the next eight years. Swimming Australia President Barclay Nettlefold put a brave face on the funding decision and said that "he believed the sport was in a strong position to bounce back." The cut equates to A$500,000 ($513,450) a year. Nettlefold said that last year's financial injection from the world's richest woman, Gina Rinehart, which established the A$10M Georgina Hope Swimmers Foundation, "would help to offset the loss, as would an increase in Direct Athlete Support payments and extra Paralympic funding." Nettlefold: "Swimming is in a fortunate position that we are able to combine ASC funding with commercial revenue" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 4/23).

THE BIG WINNERS: In Sydney, Samantha Lane wrote yachting (a 16.7% increase on '12-13), water polo (21.5%), badminton (27.1%) and canoeing (17.4%) "were the big winners in an overhauled allocation" of A$120M in federal funding. The Australian Rugby Union got a huge 91.2% budget increase, including a one-off grant of A$500,000 toward a "national centre of excellence." Golf got a rise of 17.7% "because of the sport's inclusion in the next Olympics." ASC Chair John Wylie insisted that "outstanding athletes in any discipline would not suffer, regardless of the allocation towards their sport." Wylie said that "budget cuts to swimming and athletics would come out of administration, rather than from high performance" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 4/23). REUTERS' Ian Ransom wrote overall, sports funding in Australia will rise a modest 1.4% year-on-year to just under A$120M. The allocation comes a month after the ASC "threatened to cut funding to its top sports if they failed to bring their governance up to scratch, with demands for more transparency over their use of their funding" (REUTERS, 4/22). The AAP's John Salvado wrote Australian Olympic Committee President John Coates "welcomed the ASC's call for increased accountability from individual sporting bodies." Coates: "There will always be winners and losers under the new strategy but we fully support Winning Edge and its goals. Sports are now more accountable and they are not only judged on performance but governance" (AAP, 4/22).

The involvement of ethnic Chechens in the Boston Marathon bombing "has drawn security to the forefront of public concern in Russia, particularly with regards to the nation’s upcoming sports competitions," according to Kristen Blyth of the MOSCOW NEWS. Russia will play host to three major sporting events in the coming year: the Universiade -- an int'l multi-sport competition -- in Kazan in July, the World Championships in Athletics in Moscow in August, and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi in February. In the wake of a fresh terror attack, citizens, athletes and officials "are forced to reconsider whether Russian security is prepared." Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said, "For us this is a serious wake-up call. Of course we’ll tighten up our security measures." Due to Russia's "heavy financial and reputational investment plus the sheer scope of the Olympic Games," Sochi is "of particular concern." The special services of numerous foreign countries "have already visited Sochi in a series of test events and have thus far expressed satisfaction." Some experts said that the Sochi Games "may be the most vulnerable of Russia’s upcoming sports competitions for a number of reasons." The geographic location of Sochi -- just a few hundred kilometers away from the Northern Caucasus region, which includes Chechnya -- "places the Games very near to a politically turbulent area." Carnegie Moscow Center Caucasus expert Alexey Malashenko said that collaboration between regional extremist groups "could present a major danger to the safety of the Games." SK Strategia think tank analyst Maxim Agarkov said that Sochi’s small size "will also work to Russia’s advantage in providing protection." Agarkov said, "It’s simple enough to prepare safety measures, because there’s only one road [in Sochi]. In Moscow there are many entrances and exits. It would be much more complicated [to protect]." Agarkov added, "The biggest threat for the Olympics would be if the Islamic extremists found a common language with Circassian extreme nationalists" (MOSCOW NEWS, 4/22).