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Children are dropping out of organized sports and it is hoped that Brisbane will get them back in 2032

Brisbane 2032 will be a buzz word for sports bosses to get the nation moving again.

Important points:

  • Many young people have stopped participating in organized sports in the past 18 months
  • Sport Australia plans to use Brisbane 2032 to attract children back to their teams
  • The goal is to create future Olympians and improve the health of the nation

The Olympic host nations traditionally have strong teams and for Australia to live up to that expectation, it faces two challenges – changing participation trends and the pandemic.

Statistics from AusPlay, a national population tracking survey, show that the number of young people involved in organized sport has decreased in the past 18 months.

Children who play sports outside of school rose from 55 percent to 43 percent last year. It reinforces another statistic: there is a 30 percent drop-out rate of children in organized sport between the ages of nine and 19 years.

Sport Australia boss Rob Dalton called the next decade in sport “the golden catwalk”.

“We are very concerned about the decline in sports participation, particularly due to COVID,” he said.

“This is a reset for us … to make Australians stronger through sport.”

Dalton calls the next decade in sport “the golden runway” and says this is a moment to reset. (

Delivered: Sport Australia

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Four-time Olympian Steve Moneghetti said the next eleven years would be exciting for all sports.

“You can finance things, plan things, build infrastructure,” he said.

“After all, we’re talking about the Olympic Games – it doesn’t get any better (for athletes).”

Sport Australia has two goals: to help sport attract future Olympians, and to increase participation to improve the health of the population. Improving school programs will be crucial.

“It allows schools that apply for funding to do a variety of sports during their school day for children to participate,” said Dalton.

“We’re very excited about it. It gives children the opportunity to participate in different sports and it’s not just ‘my father plays footy, I play footy’.”

The next step is to combine school sport with club sport.

“As soon as we start combining these two things, we’ll start bringing more people into the system,” said Dalton.

The table tennis player Melissa Tapper is an example of a child who found their way into sport through school and followed them to the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Milly Tapper crouches down on the table tennis table after serving.Milly Tapper tried table tennis for the first time at school and has since represented Australia at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

730: Chris Gillette

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“It’s a really critical time,” said Dalton.

“The work starts now. We have a little window to make sure we improve the experience.

“We have to find ways to help clubs improve that experience, find better coaches, not just coaches for the game but coaches for life, so that more is at stake instead of learning how to kick “hit a soccer ball or a softball.”

However, not all sports suffer from COVID. Tennis and golf did well between lockdowns.

Sport Australia believes this is because people increasingly want to exercise in their spare time, with no restrictions from league schedules and travel to away games.

“Sport has to be smarter,” said Dalton.

“People still want to play sports (but) they want to do social sports. They want to play with their friends, they want to play at a suitable time, they want to play in a suitable place.

“We need to be able to bring that into our sports sector too, so we have both: we have those who want to play competitively and those who just want to play and participate within their own timeframe.”

Moneghetti said the Brisbane Games are a “carrot” for junior athletes to stay in Olympic sport rather than join professional national team sport.

Steve Moneghetti speaks to reporters.Steve Moneghetti was the Chef de Mission of the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. (

Getty Images: Lisa Maree Williams

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He added that it would increase Australia’s chances of producing medalists in Brisbane if more teenagers choose athletics over soccer codes.

Queenslanders understand the benefits of hosting international sporting carnivals.

The 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games brought the community together to celebrate and gave rise to applications in Brisbane.

Sydney 2000 will also be remembered by sports administrators as they plan for 2032.

One of the pitfalls of the successful Sydney Games was the subsequent loss of Australian coaches to rival nations. The UK recruited Australian mentors with a view to London 2010.

An aerial view of a refurbished gabba stadium.A graphic showing the refurbished Gabba venue proposed as the main stadium for Brisbane 2032.

Supplied: Government of Queensland

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Mr. Dalton hopes it doesn’t happen again.

“In preparation (for Sydney) we probably focused on the year 2000 rather than thinking beyond the year 2000. And that will surely be something we will do.

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“In fact, at Sport Australia, we’re going to have a plan for each sport over this period, but it will not just go through 2032, it will go beyond 2032.”

As usual, public funding will be available to prepare the sport for another Australian-hosted Olympics.

The debate about how best to spend that money – gold medal ambitions versus mass sports participation – is likely to continue as future budgets are drawn up.

“You can’t do it cheaply,” said Mr. Dalton.

“We’re excited about the prospect of receiving additional funding to participate and make these changes. And it’s not just about getting more people to play, it’s about getting them even more excited to play.”

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