Delayed AIS decision puts future at risk of being election football

The uncertainty has dragged on for more than two years, but it is hoped the looming election will give more clarity on the future.

«The AIS, we’ve made a very, very strong commitment as government that we appreciate and understand its iconic role and future role in Australian sport and our national identity,» McKenzie said.

«We’re looking at the business case, Sport Australia is still working on the second part. When that comes to government, I’m sure we’ll be looking at it very closely.

«[We’re] really excited about a 21st century high-performance facility here in Canberra that really works in partnership with our state institutes.


«…I think the whole ecosystem of high-performance sports development has fundamentally changed since the mid 80s. We need to recognise that and we need the AIS to be globally focused, high end, high research and a centre of excellence. That’s what our government wants to see.»

McKenzie was at the institute on Thursday to announce $13.8 million in participation grants to support 52 projects aimed at making Australians more active.

The government has largely focused its investment on grassroots participation and promoting healthy and active lifestyles, but elite Olympic sport athletes are craving a larger injection.

A group of Olympians and high profile athletes wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister last year calling for more funding and warning a failure to address the problem would trigger a massive decline.


«If you ask Australians where they’d like to see their taxpayer dollars spent, they’re very, very clear they want to see their kids getting more active,» McKenzie said.

«They want to see their local clubs supported and have world-class facilities, and they want to enjoy the fact we have elite athletes who are smashing it, way above our ‘underdog status’.

«I’m very confident the investment we’ve made as a government … over $100 million every year into the high-performance system and an additional $50 million earlier this year, I hope the national sporting organisations are targeting that to our athletes to make sure they’re prepared in the very best manner.»

But there are fears the future of the AIS will become a political football in the election race as the roles of the institute and Sport Australia continue to change.

Labor assistant treasurer and member for the ACT seat of Fenner Andrew Leigh launched a petition last year to stop job cuts at the AIS, calling for a strategic plan at the institute.

Sport Australia officials fronted a Senate hearing into Canberra’s national institutions, revealing the ageing facilities at the AIS are worth $200 million.

The ACT government has delayed plans to build a new rectangular stadium in Civic until after the future of the AIS and possible sale of Canberra Stadium is finalised.

Chris Dutton is the sports editor at The Canberra Times.

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