Reason for our kids to dream of glory on home soil

South East Queensland’s winning bid for the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games provides all Australian children the chance to dream of representing their nation on the world’s biggest stage, right here at home writes Australian Sports Commission Chair Josephine Sukkar AM.

  • This article was first published in The Australian on 24 July 2021, page 34.

2032 has become a giant target to aim towards, aligning our sports, our infrastructure, and our communities to leave a positive legacy for a post-COVID Australia. With sport as the ‘vehicle’ for that change.

It is an enormous privilege to lead the Australian Sports Commission, and its two arms, the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and Sport Australia, and the important work that has been carried out since 1981.

All eyes will be on our athletes in Tokyo from this week, and the AIS is continuing to provide opportunities and support for current and future athletes, so that all Australians can continue to aspire to represent their country.

Participation in sport takes many guises. Athlete, coach, manager, volunteer and so many more. Within the sports ecosystem, it is acknowledged that none can exist without the other. We are the training ground for more than just athletes. We are the community for more than athletes. We provide the physical and emotional environments to achieve and excel. For more than just athletes.

While athletes are the final beneficiaries of the input and participation of many Australians, those who stand behind, alongside (and in some instance in front of) the athletes, all benefit from the transferable skills and opportunities afforded to all who are involved in sport.

To ensure sustainable success, the AIS has significantly increased investment in the resources and the strategies that support athlete pathways. Over the past two years, 126 roles within the national sporting organisations have been created, including 64 coaches to support this commitment. They are positions that identify, support, and progress our best young sporting talent, and prepare them for higher honours.

The AIS established the National Coach Taskforce and strategy last year, to position Australia as the leader in coach development by the end of the decade. And recognising that the holistic support of the athlete is critical for their success, the AIS engagement programs and network of more than 30 Athlete Wellbeing Managers in sports are helping athletes to optimise their transferable skills and take them into their careers and lives beyond sport.

Sport Australia is not only assisting sports through funding but is giving them tools and support to enhance their operations, develop their workforce and re-imagine their products and experiences to attract more Australians into sport.

Sport Australia’s national Sporting Schools program provides children with the opportunity to sample some 35 sports for free, in fun environments, creating positive connections with sports and pathways into local sporting clubs.

We thank the Australian Government for their investment in Australian sport and their confidence in this 2032 bid. The Government’s extended funding commitment in this year’s budget has meant that the AIS, by the end of the year, will be able to confirm sport funding through to the 2024 Paris Games.

This is a golden decade of major sporting events on home soil, with World Cups or World Championships locked in for basketball, cricket, football, and netball, to name a few. Every sport needs to take advantage of this generational opportunity to capture the hearts and minds of Australians, especially children, to shape a pathway for their lifelong participation in sport.

A home Olympic and Paralympic Games brings a sense of united purpose. We are working closely and in partnership with state and territory institutes and academies. We congratulate the Australian Olympic Committee and Paralympics Australia for their work in the successful 2032 bid and look forward to ongoing collaboration.

Finally, but most importantly, volunteers are the backbone of all Australian sport. Sport Australia has joined Volunteering Australia to bring the sector together to build a contemporary framework for participation of sports volunteers. Having been a volunteer to the sector myself for many years now, nothing will replace the memory of the Sydney Olympic experience of my late father.

In 2000, my father, Buddy Macdessi became a volunteer doctor joining the medical team looking after the teams of smaller nations while they were in Sydney. He was the son of Lebanese immigrants, arriving in Australian when he was 11 years old post-World War 2. Sport was his passion, and in many ways created another pathway for assimilation and integration, at a time when inclusion was not seen as valuable or a priority that it is today.

I am not sure I saw him happier than when he was given the opportunity to volunteer his services in Sydney, and to this day one of my most treasured possessions is that (less than fashionable!) volunteer uniform he wore throughout the whole of the Games.

I could not be more excited for sport in Australia and the opportunities that will come our way, if we choose to embrace them. Congratulations Team Australia and here’s looking towards an exciting 11-year runway with optimism and pride.

Josephine Sukkar AM

/Sport Australia Public Release. This material comes from the originating organization and may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. View in full here.