Crunch time looms for AIS
AIS director Matt Favier. Photo: Melissa Adams
Director of the Australian Institute of Sport Matt Favier admits all AIS programs are under review as the Canberra campus prepares for one of the biggest strategic shake-ups in its 31-year history.
The Australian Sports Commission and Sports Minister Kate Lundy will deliver a new blueprint for Australian sport on Friday as sporting chiefs attempt to revive the country's international success.
Details of the plan are closely guarded, but there is growing speculation the role of the AIS Canberra campus could be diluted further as sporting programs are spread nationally and individual sporting bodies are held more accountable for their own athletes' performances.
It could involve sports taking more control of their government-allocated finances and awarding their own national scholarships, instead of the traditional approach by which the AIS provides sporting programs and scholarships.
The AIS has become a Canberra institution since opening in 1981, in response to the 1976 Montreal Olympics in which Australia failed to win a single gold medal.
Originally established as a central base for elite sport, at its peak the AIS in Canberra was considered Australia's Olympic home.
In more recent years, and with the growth of state sporting institutes, the role of the AIS in Canberra has diminished as a permanent home for athletes.
The AIS in Canberra has increasingly become a facility for national team training camps, a trend of decentralisation which is set to continue.
In an interview with Fairfax Media, Favier said the future of all AIS programs, including the traditionally successful swimming program, would be assessed over the next 12 months.
''Every sport that's on program here at the AIS will continue until the end of 2013,'' Favier said.
''We are at the end of a significant [Olympic] cycle, we need to give everybody the opportunity and we're not yet in the position to make any decisions, so no one should conclude that there's a cliff edge at the end of 2013.
''But certainly we need to look at our entire approach.''
Australia performed below expectations at this year's London Olympics, finishing 10th on the medal tally with seven golds.
Favier, who worked with high-performance sport in Britain for nine years, said it was becoming increasingly evident that Australia's approach was outdated.
''I'm not convinced … looking around at other systems in the world … that we have evolved significantly enough or fast enough to move on from a traditional way we've operated,'' he said.
''Where we probably felt we've led the way in terms of influencing high-performance sport in the '80s and '90s, we are no longer in that same place … we have to recognise the world's changed, it's moved on, people are organising around it, we're being outmanoeuvred in some areas and we need to be more agile and able to adapt to that.
''I think systematically at the moment we are on a slippery slope, so we need to be very careful about the next steps we take because they will be significant for us. If we have aspirations to stay inside the top 10 [on the Olympic medal tally], we absolutely need to think about what we do.
''We need to make sure that from a taxpayer point of view that every dollar we receive sweats hard for Australia.''
Favier denied that the AIS Canberra campus, which includes world-class sports science facilities, would become underutilised under the new sporting strategy.
''I don't want to lose all the good things I think we've got, and I do think we've got some absolute assets, including the facilities we have in Canberra and other locations,'' he said.
ACT Liberal Senator Gary Humphries said the federal government needed to move swiftly to offer certainty to the sports community.
''Rumours have been swirling around the sports community - and the AIS in particular - ever since public criticism of our performance at the London Games surfaced,'' he said.
''The role of the Australian Institute of Sport is pivotal in that respect.
''I call on the Sports Minister to provide that certainty in the announcements she is expected to make shortly.''