CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — As Australia frets about its disappointing gold medal haul at the OIympics, Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Wednesday said the nation should enjoy the games rather than argue over proposed policy changes on sports funding.
Australia has only four gold medals so far and seemingly stands no chance of meeting the target of a top five berth on the medal table.
That has prompted Australian Olympic Committee chief John Coates and others to urge the government to increase funding for sports and demand schools put more resources into sport.
Gillard urged Australians to enjoy the triumphs of their Olympic athletes now and examine the team’s overall performance later.
“What I want to be doing now, just as an Aussie let alone as prime minister, is cheering on the remarkable things our athletes are doing,” she told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio on Wednesday, hours after Australia moved up the medal tally with golds to cyclist Anna Meares and hurdler Sally Pearson.
“So let’s share in that joy, share in the expectation of more fantastic performances to come,” she said. “There will be plenty of time afterwards to work through everything that people want to discuss in sport.”
Sports Minister Kate Lundy said it was important that Australians were gracious when results didn’t go their way and rejected claims that reduced government funding had contributed to the shortage of gold medals.
“The rest of the world have looked to Australia for inspiration through our AIS (Australian Institute of Sport) model,” she said. “The key … is to make Australia the destination of choice for coaches, for world-class sports administrators and managers and of course by innovating and finding our next edge.”
Lundy had lost her bet with British sports minister Hugh Robertson over which of the two nations would win the most gold medals in London, meaning the Australian minister must row the Eton Dorney course wearing the colors of the United Kingdom.
Had Australian won more gold than Britain, Robertson would have had to dribble a hockey ball around Australia House in London wearing the Kookaburras’ field hockey uniform.