Is Greg Hunt, the newly appointed Health and Sports Minister, the man to revive Australia’s Olympic woes? Hunt will inherit plans to introduce a new National Lottery to create a UK-style funding scheme for the nation’s Olympians.
With the Commonwealth Games just around the corner, the government is also mulling a bid for the 2028 Summer Olympics with a study already underway looking at the feasibility of Brisbane as a potential location, or Melbourne in 2032.
Would a National Lottery save us from sporting embarrassment? It has certainly worked in the UK.
The lottery was established there in 1994 two years before the country’s disastrous Olympics in Atlanta, where it picked up just one gold medal. Twenty-two years later, and the UK finished second in the medal table at Rio for its best haul ever.
Contrast that with Australia, which fell way short of targets; 29 medals in Rio, and just eight golds, represented our worst Summer Olympic tally in 24 years.
Olympic Targets Dropped
The UK outstrips us in sports funding by around 33 percent, and this is almost completely down to the existence of the National Lottery, where 50 per cent of returns goes back into the prize pool, and 28 per cent to “good causes,” like sports funding.
The remaining 12 per cent ends up in government coffers. It’s believed that a similar model in Australia would raise between $30 million and $50 million per year.
Last week president of the Australian Olympic Committee John Coates, suffering from a sharp dose of reality, scrapped the target for Australian athletes to finish in the top five nations at Tokyo 2020, following criticism the target was artificial and unrealistic.
“We are 100 per cent supportive of the lottery proposal,” Coates told the Australian recently. “Olympic sport is in desperate need of funding. We are being out-funded by other countries, particularly Britain and Germany. I would give the lottery wholehearted support and I hope it gets up.”
Standing up for Sport
It’s believed that in order to reap the benefits for Tokyo 2020, a National Lottery would need to be implemented by the end of this year, although it would not be a short-term fix; the real benefits would be seen in the medium- to long-term.
That means, if Hunt gets his skates on, who knows, we could be beating the Poms at their own game at Brisbane 2028.
“We’re very conscious that we want to raise more revenue for Australian sport but we want to do it in a way that’s responsible,” John Wylie, the chairman of the Australian Sports Commission said late last year.
“The fact is we are underfunded but we are not just sticking our hand out and looking for more taxpayer funds. We are unambiguously and unashamedly standing up for sport and saying this matters.”