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The Olympic Games

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Canberra, November 22. 1974

Address by the Hon. F. E. Stewart, M.P.,

Minister for Tourism and Recreation

to the Congress of the Australian Olympic Federation

at the Lakeside Hotel, Canberra. November 22, 1974

Eighteen years ago to the day, in brilliant sunshine, the Melbourne

Olympic Games were opened by the Duke of Edinburgh and I was among the Drowd, a 33-year-old backbencher, sitting on the front benches with my

vife. I had to wait 16 years to make the move to the same front Government Denches — a slow but steady improvement in my own marathon race. ’

Since then, my interest in sport has only increased and my fascination vith the Olympic Games, the world's largest festival of sport, has never


But which way do the Games develop, what is their future and is there any danger that the Olympics may lose the dominant role it has been

playing for more than 78 years on sport?

These are some of the questions people all over the world have been

asking in recent years.

The Games started off in the right direction and quickly developed into a four-yearly ritual, the supreme test for sportsmen and women.

It even fulfilled Pierre Coubertin's dream of being a link among

peoples and races. Although the modern Olympics never quite matched the spirit of the ancient Games where, for the duration of the events, even

ninor wars were suspended, one could still say that a great deal more good

than harm has come out of these four-yearly spectacles.

Critics of the Olympics at times point out that in recent years far

top much politics has been allowed to interfere with the purity of sport,

that some nations have been using the Games as a tool of propaganda to . further their political aims, to achieve instant international prestige.

2 .

Some of these charges must be undeniably true. But whenever I hear

; pious exhortations of these critics, I tend to ask myself the question: it's wrong with international prestige?

Show me a nation that seeks total obscurity; show me a people who

it to thrive on constant failure. National prestige, I guess, is

lething like individual pride and dignity and these two virtues have not ;n subjected to criticism.

Where the Olympic Games has been changing has been in its widening seal. Since the war and with the emergence of many new countries, the

lgible rewards for success have become more evenly spread.

The once almost total domination of the European countries and the

^ has been checked and this, I believe, is good for the Games. When we ϊ a marathon runner from Ethiopia, a 1500 metres champion from Tanzania, cers from Cuba and competitors from Asian and African countries reach the ? of the tree in their events, we see evidence of the growing popularity ■

organised sport in former colonies or previously underdeveloped countries.

Nevertheless, Australia's record and achievements in this constantly

iffening international competition is still a very formidable one. We ϊ looked upon as one of the most successful sporting nations in the world

d can always produce some superstars.

In many ways, this reputation of ours is a flattering one.

Our sportsmen and women have, with their deeds, managed to gloss over 5 shortcomings and inefficiencies in our sporting system. If anything,

2y lulled into complacency and apathy those whose task and duty it would

ze been years ago to stop admiring these superstars and offer encouragement

1 assistance instead. ' . . . j

At the same time, we have been basking in their glory, readily and Llingly associating ourselves with these champions. No Australian 1

/ernment, before ours, ever bothered to find out what the needs of our :

3rts are, how they are coping and how they could be helped to make them

npete on roughly equal terms with the others. .

And I am delighted to say that we have done some of this, in just ier two years.

Don't get me wrong: the Australian Government doesn't want to finance

organise a trophy hunt. The grants we have been making for sport are

t down-payments on Olympic gold medals.

What we do try to achieve is that our best sportsmen and women are

zen a reasonable chance to do well at the Olympics.and other major .

ternational gatherings.

3 .

Not everyone can win; for every champion there are dozens of losers.

\nd we, as much as you yourselves, must resign to the fact that despite 2fforts, financial assistance and other modes of help, we will always have

nore among the defeated than among the victors.

But that in itself shouldn't bother us at all. First of all, I

still firmly believe in the old Olympic adage of Pierre Coubertin, that the important thing in the Games is not to win but to take part.

This has also provided great consolation to the losers over the years.

3ut essentially it must be true because the losers keep coming back, they .

try again, at times against overwhelming odds — and sometimes, almost niraculously, even succeed.

Still, the world at large always remembers the winners, the heroes,

the champions. And Australia's contribution to this elite has not been


Only since the war, we have had a healthy crop of Olympic superstars: Marjorie Jackson, Shirley Strickland, the late Russell Mockridge, Betty

Cuthbert, Herb Elliott, Dawn Fraser, Lorraine Crapp, Murray Rose, David Theile, Jon Henricks, Shane Gould and many others, to mention only the most famous.

These have become household names all over the world and even where people know little, if anything, about Australia, they have heard of these

champions, much as we have heard of other immortals like Zatopek, Kuts, Papp

Fredriksson, Spitz and Fanny Blankers-Koen.

These are the torch-bearers, the milestones in the progress of sport

and the Olympics; more often, they are also the inspirations for today's

youth to emulate their achievements. .

How often we have read about records, amazing records, that will "never be broken", only to look back, a few years later, wondering what all our amazement was about. As long as people compete in sport, records will

always be smashed, even if the rate inevitably slows down and the improve­

ment must be measured in decimals or less.

But the human spirit, being what it is, cannot tolerate stagnation; it strives always to go one better, to topple yesterday's heroes and

trample on yesterday's record. Without this spirit — in sport, science, arts, everywhere— life would be reduced to meaningless vegetation;

without it, I doubt whether man would have ever left the. safety of his first cave. This is one reason why I cannot share the gloom and pessimism

of those who, in their ivory towers, so easily condemn modern sport as

something, harmful, almost shameful. .

4 .

To a very large extent, the success of Australian sport is in your

ands. You are the administrators, the officials, the leaders of amateur

port; it depends on your initiative and enterprise how far and how fast he respective sports develop.

Sporting officials in this country have come in for more than their

air share of criticism over the years; quite often they are the convenient

ow to kick. Whatever.shortcomings they might have — and they are the irst to admit that they are not perfect — let us always bear in mind that

he vast majority of them give their time and skill freely, voluntarily and


I am equally certain that the overall standard of administration will

mprove. Under our widened sports assistance program we will be able to elp, financially, those amateur sports which need this help. We have no .

ntention of carrying any of the sports; neither do we wish to muscle in

nd take over the running of the various associations.

However, because lack of finance, if not outright poverty, often roves to be a major retarding factor in the administration of an amateur

port, we will give serious consideration to making grants available for

.his purpose.

Perhaps this way the various sports will be able to attract more top

:lass administrators to their ranks who, in the past, simply have not been

variable or interested in such assignments.

But it would be wrong to think that money alone can solve all your

iroblems; it cannot buy know-how, efficiency and selflessness. And a

rood sporting administrator needs all these qualities. He must try to put

he interests of the sport ahead of State.

Far too much energy is dissipated in senseless rivalry battles; in

ntrigues and plots that may further personal ambitions but do little else;

hey certainly don11 advance the case of sport in Australia.

As most of you know, more than a year ago we introduced our sports

issistance program in' order to lift the general standard of competitors at lenior and junior levels. In the first year we concentrated heavily on

providing assistance with fares to national and international events,

inabling those properly and democratically selected to represent their itates and their country.

· While I believe all this remains important, I have directed that our

irogram be enlarged and deepened, to take in other aspects of sporting

.ctivities such as administration, coaching and cartage of equipment.

5 .

I detected in a few instances a tendency to exploit or abuse the

lerosity of the Government with the fares subsidies. Some organisations

re all of a sudden developed an irresistible travel itch and went out of >ir way to find an outlet for this. . .

Others, I felt, got their priorities all mixed up. Impoverished,

lost penniless associations which could hardly afford a typewriter wanted

send teams overseas to some obscure events. These we have discouraged

l will continue to discourage in the future.

I am convinced that associations should develop a sense of priorities;

iy should learn to walk before they run. Participation at international rel, such as world championships, should be their ultimate aim, not the

:st target. They should also seriously and honestly consider whether

:y are ready to take on the world's best, whether there is anything they l learn from a series of defeats, sometimes humiliating ones or whether

:y would be better advised to enter this stage of the competition more

.ly prepared and after being expertly coached.

Proper coaching, you will agree, is the basis of success in sport l that's the reason why, in our new and revised program, we will pay

icial attention to this field. I understand that one of the senior ricers of my Department explained to you earlier today the plans we have

this regard and .1 hope this will meet with your approval.

Let me mention here that in the reshaping of our program, the newly

minted Australian Sports Council has already played its part and I am

king forward to receiving many suggestions and ideas from this Council

ch will, in turn, advance sport in this country. The Council, as well

the Study Group set up to make recommendations to me on the feasibility

a National Sports Institute, are parts of the overall picture which I e been trying to create to launch a frontal attack on the many long- lected problems of sport in Australia.

The Council— and some of you here are members of it — will

efully grow and develop into a body which can initiate new programs, ry out surveys, test reactions, adapt and adopt more advanced overseas

jects and generally keep our sport inching forward..

Once it has found its feet, it will be much more than an occasional cussion group. It will provide leadership, if not with action then i firm plans and projects, for all sports willing to accept this.

Some members of the Study Group left for overseas yesterday and I am

Bful that they will carry out the first complete survey on the need for Dorts Institute.


These are only two instances of our enterprise since coming into

office in December 1972; there are several more. .

Early this year my Department organised a highly successful national

seminar on recreation and spinoffs from that can already be felt in many

regional areas and in local government circles.

We are in the midst of undertaking a vast survey to take stock of Australia's recreational resources, a sort of mapping out of what we have

and where the needs are the greatest. However, 1 could not wait for the

result of this undoubtedly thorough survey and since August 1973, we have

made grants totalling some $7 million towards new sporting and recreational facilities in all States.

I realise all this is only a drop in the bucket — but do remember that under previous Governments you didn't have a bucket at all. I regard all this as a cautious start but vital break-through in a field which is

well covered in many overseas countries but is new in Australia.

We are doing all this because we believe that sport and recreation

are almost constitutional rights of our people; that leisure will play an

increasingly important role in our lives.

Sport, which is really your great love affair, was swept under the carpet for too long in this country. It was tolerated as a youthful·, excess, a sign of harmless exuberance — but frowned upon as something

Governments could not take seriously, let alone support.

My Government and I don't share this moth-eaten view. Sport, as you know, is one of the most democratic manifestations where neither class

privilege, nor birth and breeding can give you an advantage over your opponent.

It is also a supra-racial phenomenon, bringing together peoples of different colors, races, creeds, religions and political beliefs, to test

their strength and skill in friendly combat. This, after all, has been

the secret of the success of the Olympic Games over the years.

And if the Games want to survive and prosper, if they are to retain their value to the world, we must do all we can to foster this democratic and multi-racial character of the Games and must make sure that they over­

ride any other selfish and commercial consideration.

When we think of the Olympics, we are inclined to conjure up images of champions breasting the tape, clearing the bar, and performing other

athletic deeds. The average man of the street focuses his attention on the Olympics only every four years when tho Press and television bring to

him all the glamor and drama associated with the event. ..


But you all know just how much preparation goes into that one

rforraance, how much time and sweat and tears precede that run, jump or


And even more significantly, how many people realise that for every

ortsman and woman who does take part in the Olympics, there are hundreds — not thousands — who are also there in spirit by having striven for the

me honor and by providing the necessary stimulus and competition for the e who eventually came out on top. \

We want to be concerned with all these also rans, we want to encourage d broaden the base on which individual successes are built.

It may give us a fleeting sense of satisfaction, even pride, when an

stralian wins a gold medal — but more often than not, we have been

ddened by the knowledge that this or that success was the result of one

dividual's brilliance, almost freakish talent — with almost no solid undation and back-up in that particular sport. ·

Sport needs depth to produce champions and we are determined to

courage the development of this depth. In a way, all this should be part a two-way system, an up and down movement. Solid b a s e s — mass partici-

tion — will, with almost mathematical certainty, produce the champions;

ese champions, with equal certainty, will lead to mass participation in Ort. · .

Our role in all this becomes that of a middleman; we will help to ovide facilities and finance for a range of activities, but mainly for

ose who are also prepared to help themselves. We have no intention to

scourage, stifle or replace local initiatives but to supplement these;

e principle of self-help must remain.

I realise that sport, especially at the Olympic level, has become a ivernment concern in some countries, fuelled almost entirely by Government

nance and administered by Government bureaucracy.

But neither I nor you would wish that to happen in Australia; the mmunity, the volunteers and the amateur enthusiasts must provide the

atform on which our sporting structure is erected. v Let me, in conclusion, reaffirm my Government's and my own deter-

nation to help as much as possible all recognised sports in this country

d this help, naturally, includes the Olympic movement.

It is fitting and proper that for the first time, you are meeting in' r capital city; the Australian Olympic Federation is a national asset.

I want to express my hope that in years to come we will, in close .

-operation with the various associations concerned, succeed in elevating

ort to the position which it deserves.

I also hope that your Federation will react to our Government

nitiatives in the right spirit and ensure that at the 1976 Olympics in

lontreal, our sportsmen and women will represent their country aware that

he whole of Australia, including our Government, is steadfastly behind