Australian Olympic legend Kieren Perkins says he hopes the likelihood of Brisbane hosting the 2032 Games reverses a decline in popularity for the nation’s swim team.
The IOC executive board has proposed that Brisbane be awarded the Games, with the matter to go to a formal vote in Tokyo next month.
It would mark the third time Australia has hosted the Olympics, after Melbourne in 1956 and Sydney in 2000.
Perkins, a dual gold medallist and now the president of Swimming Australia, says the opportunity to host another Games would be a shot in the arm for the sport.
“One of the things that swimming is really contending with, and I certainly feel a deep sense of responsibility for this, is that while we would still hold ourselves as being Australia’s most successful, well known and well supported Olympic sport, the reality is over the last period of time we just haven’t had the same cut through,” he told Wide World of Sports.
“You do a straw poll in the community about the current swimmers, and it’s a challenging process to get them to name names, to get people to know who our athletes are and what their stories are, and why you want to tune in and watch them compete.”
Perkins won gold at both the 1992 and 1996 Games, and noted that Australia’s success in Sydney had its genesis many years previously.
It’s why he believes this year’s Games in Tokyo are crucial to our success in 2032.
“For me, I have that athletic experience and I understand exactly what our athletes are going through at the moment and what they need, but I’m acutely aware that if 2032 comes off in South East Queensland, the athletes who will compete there are the kids who are today watching our team in Tokyo,” he said.
“We need those kids inspired, and we need them engaged, and we need them setting off on a path to be an Olympian in 11 years time.
“The higher the level of engagement we get to inspire that passion, the better.”
Swimming Australia recently signed a deal with Amazon Prime Video, not just for coverage of the selection trials in Adelaide this weekend, but also the production of a documentary called Head Above Water, which follows Kyle Chalmers, Cody Simpson and Bronte Campbell in the build up to the trials.
Perkins believes that exposure will give the sport fresh momentum to build on over the next decade.
“We are so excited by the opportunity for 2032 if that comes off, because it completely changes the dialogue for Olympic sport in this country,” he explained.
“There’s nothing like a home Games to focus the mind on the importance of ensuring we find the best talent, so we’re successful on the world stage, not just hosting the games but being successful in the competition.
“It’s a great connector to the community about what the Olympics is and the inspiration it can create.”
The 2000 Olympics brought an influx of world class swimming events to this country, with Perth hosting the 1998 world championships, and Sydney the 1999 Pan-Pacific Games.
It’s a halo effect that Perkins hopes is replicated if Brisbane gets the go-ahead.
“We hope that we can also bring other events to Australia in the lead-up, so it isn’t just a one-off. There’s world championships and Pan-Pacs to also give us the momentum,” he said.
“Part of the reason there was such connection to the Australian swimming team in the lead-up to Sydney, is that we as a group of athletes recognised the opportunity that Sydney presented, both individually and commercially and for the future of the sport.
“Sydney was a relatively old team, people like myself, Chris Fydler, Susie O’Neill, we all extended our careers to a third Olympics because of the opportunity to compete at home.
“That created an environment were it was a golden era, an amazing team and a team that the Australian community really got behind. I really hope the current team can experience that.”
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