The Albanese government is seeking a "clear-eyed view" of the Canberra-based Australian Institute of Sport, announcing an independent review that will take in the controversial $1 billion question of whether it should stay in the national capital.
The review of AIS location, facilities, and required investment comes after The Canberra Times last week revealed the contents of the confidential AIS master plan for the ageing campus in Bruce, known as the "national home of sport." Master plan excerpts, released through freedom-of-information laws, show the Australian Sports Commission rejecting the "significantly high execution risk" to move the AIS to south-east Queensland ahead of the 2028 and 2032 Olympics and Paralympics.
Infrastructure Minister Catherine King and Minister for Sport Anika Wells on Monday will announce a two-and-a-half month review to be undertaken by the chair of the National Intermodal Corporation Erin Flaherty and CEO of Sport Inclusion Australia and Brisbane Olympic and Paralympic Organising Committee board member Robyn Smith.
"The independent review of the AIS Infrastructure will give the government a clear-eyed view on priority investment in the AIS in the lead-up to the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games and beyond," Ms King said in a statement.
"This is part of a national approach that supports international competitiveness and achieving success at upcoming major sporting events, including the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games."
The AIS master plan, which will form part of the review, showed the cost of moving the AIS assessed at a minimum of $600 million, exclusive of land costs, but could cost in excess of $1 billion in initial capital investment.
Masterplan excerpts showed the Sports Commission considering three options for the AIS, including the relocation of facilities to south-east Queensland ahead of the Brisbane Games as well as decentralising AIS functions across various states and territories. Ultimately, the commission, headed by swimming legend Kieren Perkins, chose the option of staying in Canberra but spending $200 million to upgrade existing facilities.
Queensland officials have been lobbying to move the AIS for several years, garnering support from former Australian Olympic Committee boss John Coates and former sports commission chairman John Wylie who have criticised its location and age. ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr and ACT independent senator David Pocock want the AIS to stay in Canberra with a significant funding boost.
During 2023, around 5000 athletes and staff from 31 sports will use the AIS campus.
The masterplan shows moving the AIS would take "at minimum" an additional four years when factoring in site selection, planning, construction, and relocation.
"Significantly high execution risk would accrue to a relocation which may impact athlete preparation for the 2026 Commonwealth Games as well as the 2028 and 2032 Olympics and Paralympics," the document said.
The Minister for Sport has welcomed the new review, which would take in the AIS masterplan business case, as a way to ensure the AIS remains fit-for-purpose.
"The review and its outcomes will support and enhance Australian sport by providing advice on strategic investment in high performance facilities that align with Australia's High Performance 2032+ Sport Strategy," Ms Wells said in a statement.
The review's terms of reference show it will examine the Australian Institute of Sport, including its optimal location in the context of the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games and the proposed revitalisation of the existing AIS campus.
It will look at what facilities are required for the AIS to "achieve its purpose" and to "deliver on its responsibilities" in supporting high performance athletes. It will also look at the Sports Commission business case and consult with state and territory governments, national sporting organisations, the Australian Olympic Committee, Paralympics Australia, current and prospective athletes, sporting peak bodies, and industry.
It will consider International best practice developments for supporting events like the Paris and Los Angeles Olympic and Paralympic Games while factoring in readiness for athlete use with sufficient lead-up time for the Brisbane Games.
The review is due to deliver its report before the end of the year with distinct and prioritised options for consideration by government.
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