I’ve watched, with anger, the criticism of Australia’s Olympic athletes over the last two weeks. Many in the Australian public and the media have criticised Australia’s premier athletes. The criticism occurred while the athletes were still in Rio and, even more, upon their return to Australian soil. Kitty Chiller, 2016 Chief de Mission, spoke eloquently each and every day from Rio about the pride she had for the athletes, whether they won or lost, and held off the daily criticism of her team. Chiller was a class act at each and every press conference.
Chiller became not just Chief de Mission, but cheerleader in chief. Imagine the job she had to do in front of the athletes each and every day in this age of social media.
The barrage of criticism about Australia coming in tenth in the medal count has been sickening to watch and mind boggling to try to understand.
How many Olympic medals do you have in your home?
Last time I checked, I had zero. I would guess the same is true for every single person reading this blog post. So, who are we to criticise these young people who worked day in and day out to make the Olympic team and to compete on the world stage with the world’s finest athletes? Further, who are we to criticise any of them for coming home with less than Gold or no medal at all.
It is sad to see the conversation occurring in the public forum, including the airport hanger when the Qantas jet arrived from Rio. Imagine how this must have made the athletes feel knowing they were under such scrutiny despite having worked their hardest to make their country proud.
The conversation has been all about the funding of the “elite athletes” and whether Australians received their money’s worth. The discussion became about ROI and a debate about how Australian’s athletes should be funded in the future.
The Australian Olympic Committee is a non-profit organisation. Like any non-profit in our country, the committee should raise money from the private sector. Like the US and other countries, money should be raised from individuals and from corporations to fund training programs, training centres, and sending the athletes to compete in various games. I also believe a lottery must be created for mass participation.
Investing in these athletes, just as we invest in the mission of any non-profit organisation, is a choice we can make to demonstrate our national pride. First, the AOC must invest in talented fundraisers to generate the necessary funding.