More funding for more Olympic hopefuls

Published: Mon 13 Aug 2012 09:19 AM
More funding for more Olympic hopefuls
August 13, 2012
New Zealand needs to provide greater Olympic funding and not just for the top medal prospects, according to a University of Canterbury (UC) lecturer.
If New Zealand only supported athletes with a real medal prospect for 2016 then New Zealand athletes would either need to be the best contenders in every discipline or more likely some disciplines would have to be cut from funding, altogether, UC senior lecturer Ekant Veer said today.
``If we took that attitude then some of our greatest athletes would never have had a chance to hone their sport in New Zealand and then go on to Olympic greatness.
``Beatrice Faumuina didn’t come from a country that was especially known for discus but without funding for up and coming athletes, she would have never won gold at Manchester in 2002.
``Equally, Valerie Adams shocked the world with her dominance of shot put, even though we, as a nation, had never lived up to the traditional powerhouses of eastern Europe. Funding only sure medallists not only sends the impression that we don’t support effort, but it also can kill a future generation of athletes who are inspired to step up and be the next gold medallist.’’
Veer, from the College of business and Economics, said the London Games which ended at the weekend had provided a feel-good factor for New Zealanders. The flow-on effects from a pleased population are unquantifiable.
New Zealand had had a wonderfully successful campaign in London. However, as with any major sporting event, there was always the question of ‘was it all worth the cost and effort?’, he said.
``I would argue that New Zealand’s representation at the Olympics was completely worthwhile, but it’s almost impossible to quantify why. Many of the costs associated with attending an Olympics can be quantified – the hours spent training, the cost of equipment, travel, accommodation all add up. However, many of the benefits from attending an Olympic games are abstract and cannot , nor should it not, ever be quantified in dollar terms.
``Some of the obvious benefits to New Zealand include the increased exposure to a world audience, which could lead to increased tourism. Whenever a small nation, such as New Zealand, is able to achieve on a world stage it all adds to the identity of our nation.
``Whether it be from New Zealanders winning Oscars or gold medals, other nations will sit up and pay attention, when before, we may have been ignored. The costs will never outweigh this impact of making us more visible to the rest of the world.’’
Domestically, national pride from seeing Kiwi athletes competing on the world stage had been shown to boost an economy, if only marginally, through increased consumer confidence. However, the real benefits from national pride included an increased sense of community and a boost to NZ sense of self.
Veer said New Zealand was a largely sports crazy country and a successful Olympic campaign could often have a huge impact on the nation’s mood, which, in turn, can lead to increased productivity at work, improved relationships, increased consumer spending and all manner of behaviours that are positive for this nation. Even if a New Zealander was not competing, watching feats of human excellence brought a workplace closer together.

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