Thursday, October 21, 2010

[pima.nius] Pacific countries set to miss out on Olympic grants

11:48 AM |

Pacific countries set to miss out on Olympic grants

Updated October 21, 2010 09:41:56

Several Pacific countries are said to be upset with the London organisers after learning they could miss out on grants that would enable
their athletes to train and compete in Britain prior to the 2012 Olympic Games.

When London bid for the event it promised 15-million dollars to help athletes competing in the Olympics and Paralympics, but now organisers say that money will go only to competitors who have already met Olympic qualification standards.

However many competitors from countries like Fij, Samoa and Papua New Guinea are likely to gain Olympic entry through a last minute "wildcard" system, and the Oceania National Olympic Committee's development officer, Brian Minikin, says that may mean those athletes will miss out.

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts
Speaker: Brian Minikin, development officer with the Oceania National Olympic Committee <\i>

MINIKIN: This has been a bit of an ongoing issue. As you said yourself there was a promise prior to the games and part of their bid to support athletes in the lead-up to the games with training grants, and in that sense they also went to quite some lengths to offer opportunities for the various areas, regions in England and the UK to host teams as part of training camps. So it was always made pretty clear during our early discussions that there wouldn't be any issue with this money, that this money could be used for preparation, and that it wouldn't really matter. We progressed our agreements with the north-west of England on the basis of being able to access that funding for in-country expenses. And that we'd be using our own money of course to get our athletes there and to use the British system, much in the same way that the Australians offered support prior to the 2000 games. We look to setup a similar program, where we'd have exchanges and various sorts of programs of development that would benefit both sides actually. So to hear this kind of thing is very disappointing because it's very, well the cynical side says we're aware of their budgetary pressures and they're probably looking to cut money, but I think in reality what we're most disappointed about is that they don't seem to have appreciated the potential value both to the British and to us of developing partnerships and ongoing relationships leading up to London.

COUTTS: Well the report says that competitors must now be qualified for the games before receiving any money. What do you know about their qualification?

MINIKIN: Yes well that's right, I mean every sport has a qualification system in place. I mean the problem with that kind of attitude is that some athletes may not qualify until like a week before the games or two weeks before the games. The qualification period that happens from now right up until the games itself, and some sports will know a year after they're definitely going to the games, and some athletes won't know until a matter of weeks beforehand that they've actually reached qualifying standard. So that immediately puts a number of athletes who may end up qualifying in fact not even being able to access this system until if at all, till right before the games themselves, which is hardly of any value to us.

COUTTS: Well will Pacific competitors be disadvantage by this though?

MINIKIN: I feel we are. I think the reality is more than half of our athletes do attend the games, if we have a combined team of about 60, between 50 and 60 athletes generally go from the islands, and more than half of those are wild cards as you say, they haven't met qualifying standards but under the universality guidelines that the Olympic movement puts out, every country's entitled to send at least two athletes and these are generally in track and field, that don't meet qualifying standards. Now it's not in our interests to be sending any old athlete, we want to send athletes that have prepared well and given themselves the best shot of competing with some pride for their country in London. And of course this grant was seen not just on its own, but with the money that we would put in through our Olympics Solidarity programs, as a way to really make sure our standards were as high as possible, leading into London.

COUTTS: Well will ONOC be in a position to challenge this decision in any way?

MINIKIN: Well it's not for me to say because I'm not on the Executive Board, but I've been fairly vocal from day one about it from a development point of view, and asking the Executive Board to actually take this up with the London organisers and I sincerely hope they do. We have people on our board that have a very good relationship with Lord Coe and ANCO, so we hope that good sense will prevail and some discussions will be held. They're very aware of our concerns, we've raised this with the coordinator James McLeod, we've raised it with Lord Coe himself, and they aware that we wanted to put together a fairly ambitious and aggressive program that would benefit both parties. And I just hope that good sense will prevail and they will at least make exceptions for Oceania.

pacific islands media association
aotearoa, new zealand
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