I VIVIDLY remember the days of walking through the Australian Institute of Sport and being energised by the constant activity.There were prominent athletes from a wide range of sports preparing for competition somewhere in the world.
It’s different these days with the majority of sports using the AIS for camps only and utilising its world standard sports science facilities.
This is the way the institute has evolved with athletes and coaches staying at their home bases and coming to the AIS for specialist development or testing.
There has been a push for a less-centralised program and I can understand why hockey is in Perth, cycling in Adelaide and diving in Brisbane. Rowing, basketball and volleyball have remained in Canberra; there is still a swimming program, albeit at a significantly reduced level, with Ben Treffers and Alicia Coutts the lone AIS representatives in swimming at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
Is the AIS simply there to monitor funding to elite sport and offer specialist facilities when required by individual sports? Has it become a shell of what it once was? Is it just a facility now rather than being a hive of activity striving for sporting excellence?
I find there is more activity, sporting-wise, at the University of Canberra as it strives to become Australia’s sports university. Athletes and graduates in the one area give a sense of purpose.
Perhaps the AIS should merge with UC or perhaps I am missing the point of the new direction of the AIS altogether.
Defending the value of sport
THE value of sport in Canberra is often misrepresented and dismissed by people who have little understanding of the benefits. I have received a number of calls in the wake of my last column in which I highlighted a sometimes-negative approach to sport by some in this city.
In the column I suggested that Canberra didn’t have the mindset to host major multi-sport events such as the Commonwealth Games because every time a new facility is proposed there is significant opposition.
Many suggested the value of sport was exaggerated while others questioned whether we should be using public funds to build a facility such as the proposed indoor stadium in Civic.
We can talk ad nauseam about health and the fact that elite sport often inspires people to be more active. Sport also provides a career path for many and is an industry in itself as well as offering a further benefit of living in a city this size.
One aspect that is often neglected is the tourism value of sport. When Canberra stages major sporting events, there is an influx of people who wouldn’t normally visit the city. It generates commercial activity. It might not be just a major sporting event, it could be a regional swimming carnival, a junior netball gathering or a hockey tournament.
People who don’t like sport continually suggest that building new facilities is a waste of money. I am not suggesting that we build new facilities that cannot be sustained, just that we consider facilities that support and facilitate a thriving community.