For years, Britain has envied the efficiency with which the Australian sporting structure turns out elite athletes who excel on the international stage. Now, following Britain's historic success at the Beijing Olympics, the boot is, so to speak, on the other foot.
The Australian team returned home to a rapturous welcome yesterday, but the country remains dejected about its sixth-placed medals ranking – two behind Britain. After meeting athletes at Sydney airport, the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, said he intended to review Olympic sports funding, and would consider whether to adopt the British model of lottery revenue.
The National Lottery, introduced in 1994, has raised millions of pounds for British sport. Mr Rudd voiced caution, saying: "There's been some studies, apparently, by previous [Australian] governments of this... which have said it may not work. We want to have another look at it, because it's a positive, constructive idea."
The Australian Institute of Sport has long been regarded by Britain as a model for promoting excellence in sport. But Australia is smarting at the way Britain overshadowed it in Beijing, with the former bringing home 14 gold medals compared with Britain's 19. Mr Rudd exhorted athletes to start preparing for the London Olympics, and to "spoil the party" for the British in 2012. He said that sports funding would be boosted.
"The government is funding a large slab of investment in community level sport, school sports, indigenous sports, but also we're not going to be backtracking when it comes to funding for Olympic level sports either," he said. The Sports Minister, Kate Ellis, has said in the past that she "doubts very much" whether a lottery funding system would be viable in Australia.
l Olympic 400 metres gold medallist Christine Ohuruogu will top the bill at the Aviva British Grand Prix on Sunday. Britain's only track and field champion in Beijing will miss the IAAF Golden League meeting in Zurich on Friday to run at Gateshead.