Australia’s Olympic hierarchy are again baulking at setting a medal target for next year’s Paris Games, while defending sending athletes home within 48 hours of the end of their competition.
The new chef de mission of Australia’s Olympic team, cycling great Anna Meares, says continuing the recent policy of not announcing a medal target will ease pressure on athletes.
“‘We won’t have a medal goal,” Meares told reporters on Tuesday.
“If I had the opportunity as an athlete not to have a medal target, I think I would have felt a little bit of a reprieve around the pressure of performance.
“And it would have allowed me to just go out and do my thing.”
Before the 2016 Rio Olympics, the Australian Olympic Committee publicly set a goal of finishing top five on the medal tally.
However, after winning eight gold medals in Rio – 10th on the overall tally and the nation’s lowest haul in 20 years – the hierarchy opted against announcing a medal target.
That move was followed by Australia winning 17 gold at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, equalling the record haul for the nation at the 2004 Athens Games.
And as in Tokyo, an Olympic edition postponed one year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia’s athletes will depart Paris within 48 hours of the end of their sport’s competition.
The decision prompted some backlash regarding athletes being deprived of the full Olympic experience, but Meares said it was made for performance and logistics reasons.
More than 150 of Australia’s forecast 450-strong team will be housed outside of the athletes’ village at the July 26 to August 11 Games.
“Paris is like the new norm of the Olympic Games,” Meares said.
“They really have a big focus on sustainability and affordability, and as a result they’re reusing and refurbishing a lot of venues to save in those areas.
“As a result there’s a lot less beds, there’s a lot less seating in the stands, there’s a lot less ticketing.
“To allow the athletes (competing) in the second week and the third week to come into the village, to have their team with them, their coaches, their support staff, we don’t have the beds to house them all.
“So we need the athletes from week one to move out.
“It’s also important to remember we’ve got eight sub-sites and satellite villages and over 150 Australian athletes housed outside the village … so beds are at a premium.
“Had we had the opportunity to put it to the athletes that your teammates need the beds … I know they would have played that card of being a teammate and said ‘Yep, no worries’.”
(Australian Associated Press)