There are many groups in our society for which I have sympathy. Homeless people. The disabled. The elderly. The mentally ill. People who are struggling financially to feed their children. People with chronic illnesses or disabilities and those caring for them. Teachers. Childcare workers. Social workers. Carers. Nurses.
If there is money being handed out, I personally believe all these people who deserve a larger chunk of the federal budget.
Olympic athletes and Olympic sporting organisations? Not so much.
Which is why I was so surprised at the reaction of Australian Olympic President John Coates last week when the independent Crawford Report into sports funding was released and presented to the government.
If your eyes are glazing over at this point, please stay with me because this isn’t actually a post about sport. That would make me glaze too. This is actually a point about something deeper. It’s about what it means to be Australian.
I have no idea how that cliched sentence found its way into this debate. Oh actually yes I do. It’s because John Coates used it to try and bolster his claim that Olympic athletes are the most needy group in Australia.
This is despite receiving $500 million of government funding since 2003.
Background: here are the top line findings of last week’s report.
OK – the most important things you need to know for the basis of this post and to understand why John Coates and Olympic athletes and bureaucrats are so pissed about the Crawford Report is that it doesn’t recommend any decrease in funding.
However (this is key), it has rejected the AOC’s request for AN ADDITIONAL $100 million PER YEAR for the next 10 years.
Read that last sentence again in case you didn’t catch the numbers. So the Australian Olympic movement asked for $1billion of EXTRA funding from the government in the next decade and when the report suggested this was a bad idea and that that money would be better spent on grass roots sport at a community level. That means building infrastructure like cricket pitches and netball courts in our local areas.
This was John Coates’ extraordinary reaction in a press conference the day the report was released:
He began that press conference with an even bigger dummy spit, snarling “This is the last time you’re going to see me because if the government takes the recommendations in the Crawford Report, Olympic sport will become so unimportant that your news editors won’t bother sending you along to press conferences like this.”