It was a facility created with a grand vision. But 40 years on, that vision appears murky and uncertain.
One of our most celebrated track and field athletes, Robert de Castella, is absolutely right; the announcement of Brisbane's front-running status for the 2032 Olympics has handed Australian sport - and its once-showcase AIS facility in Canberra - the opportunity of a generation.
How well that opportunity is handled from this point on is critical.
Eleven years sounds like a long time until, potentially, the cauldron is lit in Brisbane, but early planning and stakeholder engagement will be essential if Sport Australia is to give our young athletes the best possible shot at reaching their full potential and fulfilling their Olympic dreams.
This means dealing with the ongoing uncertainty around the future of the Australian Institute of Sport campus - the sprawling 65-hectare facility - as soon as possible.
Back in 2019, Sport Australia was given a $2 million grant to fund a proposal for redevelopment.
The business case outlined a significant reduction in the footprint of the campus - down to about 30 hectares - but with a plan to theoretically use the cash generated from the sale of other land assets to pour funding into upgrading existing facilities.
Global sporting excellence no longer comes cheap. It's a science like any other and it makes sense that the AIS, with direct access to Canberra's world-class universities, research centres and academia, carries that torch for the next generation of athletes aiming for Brisbane.
The pared-back campus is the preference of the AIS but it needs the federal government, which owns the land, to stop treading water.
Secrecy still surrounds the detail of the preferred proposal which would effectively draw a line down the middle of the existing site, with Canberra Stadium, the AIS Arena and some car parks falling on one side while sports science facilities, basketball and netball training venues and soccer fields would be kept.
The AIS athletics track could also be relocated from its existing site to be a part of the new campus.
While the federal government holds off making a decision on the future of the AIS, the Barr government is given an easy hall pass on making a commitment regarding a new Canberra Stadium.
Global sporting excellence no longer comes cheap.
The stadium decision keeps going around the turntable year after year, and a federal government dragging its feet suits an ACT government with huge spending commitments to other infrastructure projects, such as the former SPIRE project at Canberra Hospital, more tram lines and a new convention centre.
But as the part-federal funding for an extension to the light rail project proved this week, infrastructure deals can be hammered out which suit the purposes of both levels of government, provided both emerge as winners.
Historically, the AIS has been a hugely influential factor in the success of Australian sport on the world stage.
From the national disappointment of not winning a single gold medal at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, the opening of the AIS five years later was the catalyst for a revival in Australia's sporting success.
Opening the AIS on January 26, 1981, prime minister Malcolm Fraser declared it a "clear sign that we are no longer going to allow the world to pass us by".
And the facility has continued to deliver down through the decades, even as infrastructure reinvestment has stuttered and flagged, and key elements such as the athlete accommodation begins to look more like a down-at-heel backpackers' hostel.
The focused nature of specific high-performance sports programs means that different parts of the country would best continue in those roles, such as cycling in Adelaide and hockey in Perth.
But the science belongs, and should always stay, in Canberra.