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Centenary party needs happy returns

Monday's Expert

Anyone who walked around Royal Canberra and watched four days of superb golf at the women's Australian Open will tell you the sporting centenary is a success.

Same goes for the 11,000 fans at the one-day cricket international at Manuka Oval.

But the challenge isn't in convincing people to go to the events or that they're worth the cash.

The hard part is making sure the capital doesn't go into a sporting spiral next year and the centenary party hangover doesn't last.

To build on this year, rather than admiring it, the ACT government needs to work quickly to establish a way for Australia's highest-profile games to make Canberra a more regular fixture on the calendar.

Maybe the way forward is to establish a permanent funding program to plan for the future.

Canberrans understand that we're not going to host the Australian cricket team, the Socceroos, the Wallabies or the Australian rugby league team every year.

Tickets for the British and Irish Lions tour game against the Brumbies go on sale on Monday and will be snapped up.

Hosting the Lions is a once-in-12-years occasion, but to say Canberra's sporting calendar is full of ''once-in-100-year events'' is ridiculous.

We've already shown that we shouldn't be an after-thought for the big sports.

There's no reason why the Australian Open shouldn't return to Royal Canberra in a few years - the crowds were great, the course was immaculate and the players loved it.

The key is to start planning now. There's an appetite for elite sport. We don't need a 100th birthday to prove to the rest of Australia that we'll go and watch.

If it had been 2003 and the world's best golfers were in Canberra, the same number of people would have turned up.

If we rewind three years before Manuka Oval lit up, the Australian cricket team would have still played in front of a sold-out crowd.

The government can't stick its hands up and say there's no money left after the centenary. The sports can't shun Canberra because they've taken all of our birthday cash.

I've found it strange that we're thanking all the top sports for coming to Canberra this year.

Hold on, aren't they coming to our party? They're drinking out of our Esky, eating off our barbecue and taking home a piece of our cake.

Sure, they brought a pretty good present with them. But if the right plans are in place, we should be getting some sort of present every year.

The government has stumped up plenty of funding to give sports fans a year to remember. It allocated $591,000 to host the Australian cricket team for the first time and has chipped in to bring other major and minor events to Canberra. But third-party sponsors have kicked in an even more significant amount to ensure some of the biggest sports are played in Canberra.

The government hasn't contributed any funding to get the ANZAC rugby league Test between the Kangaroos and Kiwis or the British and Irish Lions match. More than $200,000 has also been spread across 17 sports.

Yes, we're loving it. But don't let 2013 go to waste. It should be a building block for everyone to return.

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