Skyrocketing costs and a budget shortfall for Aussie athletes means aspiring Olympians and Paralympians are missing out on their chance to qualify for the Paris Olympics and beyond.
The Australian Olympic Committee has warned that without an urgent cash injection of $18.3 million, athletes would miss their chance at Olympic glory.
The post-Covid economic crisis Aussies endured has spread to struggling athletes, with flights and other costs rising.
A submission from the AOC has been sent to the federal government outlining the budget deficit to qualify and prepare athletes for the 2028 Paris and Los Angeles Olympics.
However, the $18.3 million urgent injection submission was rejected by the federal government.
AOC chief executive Matt Carroll said the situation is dire and will continue to worsen, with implications for the 2032 Brisbane Olympics
Without proper support and funding, Australia would not have success stories like Jessica Fox winning gold in the women’s canoe at the Tokyo Olympics
Hockey is one of the sports that could suffer if further funding is not found, with potential team members unable to afford to qualify and compete
In the entry, AOC chief executive Matt Carroll warned that if funding is not addressed, it would have major implications for the 2032 Brisbane Olympics.
“If this investment gap is not addressed, the inevitable result will be that Australia’s Olympic and Paralympic teams are under-prepared and under-resourced to achieve the success that all Australians expect. The 2032 Games in Brisbane will surely fail if the investment shortfall is not remedied
Carroll told News Corp that the 44 member sports were already looking to cut costs, which would give fewer athletes a chance to qualify.
“We’ve gotten to the point now, with the Paris Games taking place next year, where sport is really struggling,” Carroll said.
“They now have to look at reducing the team size, reducing the number of athletes they send to qualifiers, which will reduce the chance for many young Australians to achieve their dream of the Paris Games.”
Federal Sports Minister Anika Wells thinks Australian sport is well funded and doesn’t need the extra $18.3 million
Paralympic athletes like Louise Sauvage are also struggling to make it to qualifiers as flights and other costs spiral out of control
Aussie swimmers are unlikely to be affected, but athletes in less glamorous sports may not be able to afford to qualify
Federal Sports Minister Anika Wells justified the decision to withhold funding by citing existing spending on Australian sport.
“The Albanian government continues to invest in sport at all levels,” she said.
“In this financial year, the Labor Government is providing more than $127 million to Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games sports for high performance and trajectory support.
The government has also pledged billions as part of the green and gold decade leading up to Brisbane 2032, including more than $40 million for the FIFA Women’s World Cup starting in July this year.
“We continue to consider appropriate investments in sports and athletes to help them perform at their best.”
It comes after Carroll previously warned that Australia would continue to slide down in the upcoming Olympics unless there was $200 million in additional funding each year leading up to the Brisbane Games.
“Unless this situation is rectified, Australia will face failure at the 2026 Commonwealth Games and the 2032 Brisbane Olympics and Paralympic Games because our home team will have been undermined by inaction,” Carroll told the National Press Club in March .
“Based on the federal government’s preliminary estimates, there is a $2 billion shortfall in direct investment in Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games sports in the 10 years leading up to Brisbane 2032.” So, what governments in Australia want sport to achieve for the community is not going to happen.”
Olympic legend Keiran Perkins is now the head of the government-backed Australian Sports Commission
Perkins was a four-time Olympic medalist in a heyday for the Aussies, but without funding, potential champions could slip through the cracks
Aussie contingent of athletes could be much smaller at upcoming Olympics if budget shortfalls are not met
Olympic swimming icon Kieren Perkins, who currently heads the government-backed Australian Sports Commission, recognized that sport faces major financial challenges and stressed the need for better solutions.
“We know that many sports are under pressure from the increased costs of touring and running high-quality programs,” he said.
“The rising cost of living is an issue that affects so many Australians and the impact is visible in every sector.
“We are empathetic to the issues facing sport and are working closely with the government to support our athletes in dealing with these challenges.”
Carroll said the AOC would continue to work with the federal government to resolve the funding shortfall.
“We are working with the Sports Minister’s office and of course with the Sports Commission, but it can’t wait,” he said.
“It can’t be kicked in next year. Next year’s budget is overdue. Paris is July next year.
‘But it’s not just about numbers and qualifications, because there’s a human story behind it. These athletes have worked very hard to qualify and they will qualify as long as they can get to the events.”