29 January 2011

AUS Green and Gold Project

Brits on notice as athletes get $2.5m to snare medals@The Australian

A $2.5 MILLION war chest has been assembled to help Australian athletes take medals from their British arch-rivals at next year's London Olympics.

Federal Sports Minister Mark Arbib has redirected the money from the Australian Sports Commission to launch the Green and Gold Project, which will provide extra funding to shore up Australia's position as one of the top five Olympic nations.

Australia dropped out of the top five, to sixth, for the first time in a decade at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, when it was replaced by Britain, which came fourth.

Australian Olympic Committee secretary-general Craig Phillips said the most effective way for Australia to climb back up the medal table was to take medals from its direct rivals, Britain and fifth placegetter Germany.

"Every medal we take from them is worth two, because we gain one and they lose one," Mr Phillips said. "We did something similar for the Sydney Olympics, where we were competing with France and Italy."

Australia and Britain will be eyeing the same medals in swimming, track cycling, sailing, rowing and equestrian events.

Individual athletes who have British arch-rivals include Olympic champion diver Matthew Mitcham (world champion Tom Daley), world champion gymnast Lauren Mitchell (Beth Tweddle), international sailor of the year Tom Slingsby (Paul Goodison) and track cyclist Anna Meares (Victoria Pendleton).

Mr Arbib is backing the AOC's bid to return to the top five in London and said the Green and Gold Project would mark a "new push towards London 2012".

"I am an unapologetic supporter of elite sport," Mr Arbib said at the Australian Paralympic Committee president's lunch in Sydney. He has joined AOC president John Coates's cry to "rain on their parade" in London.

The federal government provided $120m of new funding to elite sport last May, but Mr Arbib said the latest boost would provide strategic investment in key Olympic sports "where we think it will make the most difference". He has brought together the ASC, Australian Institute of Sport and AOC to oversee the project.

The 10 sports which will benefit from the funding are: swimming, cycling, rowing, sailing, canoeing, athletics, diving, gymnastics, triathlon and equestrian.

A brains trust of coaches will also attend regular head coach forums, to be chaired by former Australian and British head swimming coach Bill Sweetenham, to share expertise and ideas.

Mr Arbib agreed the funding was "modest" but argued the margin between gold and silver or bronze and fourth was so slim it could be decisive. He is moving responsibility for Australia's high-performance strategy from the ASC bureaucrats to the experts of the Australian Institute of Sport.

He called on the AIS to show national leadership, work more closely with state institutes and reach out to assist leading athletes based outside its Canberra base.

"By empowering the AIS, enhancing its resources and expanding its role we will spearhead our campaign to London," Mr Arbib said.

The AIS has recently reached a $1m deal to extend its research partnership with the CSIRO and will open its European training centre in Varese, Italy, in March.

16 January 2011

Singapore Olympic Pathway Programme for Rio 2016

Search for Olympic stars begins@straits times

The search to identify athletes for Singapore's 2016 Olympic quest - for which a bold target of six medals has been set - has begun in earnest.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary (Community Development, Youth and Sports) Teo Ser Luck recently met up with officials from several major national sports associations (NSAs) to encourage them to send in names of athletes with the potential for glory in Rio de Janeiro.

Once approved, they will be included in the Olympic Pathway Programme (OPP), which provides high-level training and support for Olympic hopefuls.

The sports earmarked for 2016 include swimming, table tennis, fencing, sailing and shooting, and Mr Teo hopes to form a base of about 15 athletes.

Some names that have been touted are sailors Justin Liu and Sherman Cheng, world champions in the non-Olympic 420 class and who will progress to the Olympic 470 class this year, and Youth Olympic Games silver medallist paddler Isabelle Li, and her team-mates Pang Xue Jie and Clarence Chew.

Mr Teo, who oversees the OPP steering committee, said yesterday: 'I must stress that the criteria for 2016 are very different - athletes need not show medal potential now.

'When the OPP started in 2009, we had a short time to prepare for the 2012 Olympics, so we targeted athletes with proven track records.

'But now there's a longer time-frame, and I can understand if the athletes have not proven themselves in a big way yet.'

This marks the first time that there is a concerted effort to prepare Singapore athletes beyond a single Olympic cycle of four years, which is similar to what top sporting countries like Australia have been doing.

Said SingaporeSailing president Benedict Tan: 'The forward planning for the 2016 Olympic cycle synchronises with our plans.

'Our major challenge is the gap between the youth and Olympic levels. OPP's plan to identify talent early will help to bridge that gap.'

For next year's London Olympics, paddlers Feng Tianwei, Wang Yuegu, Sun Beibei and Yu Mengyu, swimmer Tao Li and shooter Jasmine Ser are under the OPP.

A war-chest of $6.3 million has been set aside for them, which translates to about $1 million for each over the four-year Olympic cycle. This is over and above what the athletes' NSAs get in annual Government grants.

The OPP budget for 2016 has yet to be decided. But with more athletes, there is concern there will be less money to go around.

Allaying these concerns, Mr Teo said: 'Because training is over a longer period than the 2012 Olympics, the total figure might be higher.'

Fencing Singapore, which recently started an Olympic programme for top athletes such as last year's Asian Championships bronze-medal winning women's foil team, is keen to follow up on Mr Teo's call.

Said its president Nicholas Fang: 'We'll target for more world-class events with Olympic ranking points.

'When the time is right, we will apply to be in the OPP.'

05 January 2011

Dentsu to support Singapore athletes

Catching the sports momentum@today

SINGAPORE - From the Fifa World Cup to the Olympics, Asian Games and the IAAF World Championships, the Sports Division of Dentsu Incorporated has its tentacles spread deep and wide in the sports world.

Started as an advertising agency in 1901, the Japanese company has grown to include 100 offices in 26 countries, and its sports arm was responsible for creating the Toyota Cup, which was renamed the Fifa Club World Cup in 2004.

Now with its sights on Asia, and in particular the South-east Asian market, Dentsu, whose Singapore office opened a month ago, are looking to involve themselves in the expanding regional sports business, estimated to be worth some US$20 billion ($25.7 billion).

The subsidiary, Dentsu Sports Asia (DSA), also hopes to help Singaporean athletes develop their post-competitive careers by providing internship and employment, giving them the chance to leverage on the sports expertise of Dentsu Inc.

"We've already got two current national athletes who are interning with us and we're looking to give them an opportunity to see and experience how the commercial side of sport works," said Suresh Letchmanan, the DSA's head of legal and business management.

While he declined to reveal details of DSA's plans for young local athletes that will be launched in the next few weeks, he added: "Being athletes, they've got strong leverage if they would like to continue working in sports and learning from the international expertise that exists in Dentsu. It gives these athletes a chance to see how they can continue their careers after their competitive days are over."

With a capital of $1.5 million, the sports marketing company is aiming to be a one-stop shop for sports, providing services ranging from the marketing of broadcast rights to television production, sponsorship sales, event management and even player management.

Dentsu already have on their books French football legend Zinedine Zidane, Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo and former Japanese internationals Hidetoshi Nakata and Shunsuke Nakamura, with their DSA office already looking to sign Indonesian players following the recently AFF Suzuki Cup.

MediaCorp understands that DSA are looking to work with regional football associations, with plans already in the pipeline for a partnership with the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) to develop the business end of their Strategic Plan announced last April.

"We would like to provide the very best in sports marketing and management to the rest of Asia and help develop the sports business within the region," said DSA's chief operating officer, Kunihito Morimura.

Added Suresh: "There is a lot of potential for growth in this region and with the Sports Hub to be up and running by 2015, Singapore is a great location for sports and we aim to offer a one-stop solution for the sports business community in Asia, while not forgetting local sports."