Interview on the XXXI Rio 2016 Olympic Games – Sky News SportsNight from Rio 4 August 2016
James Bracey: Minister Ley, thank you so much for your time. You’re in Rio; it’s a whirlwind trip. How’s it been so far?
Sussan Ley: It’s been fantastic. It’s been terrific getting to know this city, the athletes at the village, and we should really be proud of what our Aussies have done to look after our sportsmen and women.
James Bracey: So true. How is the atmosphere in the village at the moment?
Sussan Ley: I think it’s fantastic. Having read some of the preliminary discussions, I was certainly very pleasantly surprised. The Germans are coming over to the vending machine to get Coke. Everyone’s coming to the Au ssies to get coffee. The breakout area is wonderfully supportive. There’s a recovery area upstairs so no-one has to leave when they finish an event, and Kitty Chiller is a wonder woman, and the entire team that she has led has done an amazing job.
James Bracey: She’s certainly been on the front foot with every issue that has sprung up. Have you found the going easy here in the city? I mean, a lot has been made of the traffic, the congestion. Controversies left, right, and centre.
Sussan Ley: Yeah, look, the traffic is pretty serious [laughs]. I’m heading out to chair the Commonwealth Sports Ministers meeting and what would normally be a 20 minute trip is probably taking close to two hours. So look, it’s what we live with in a big city, and the residents here have got to put up with quite a lot, so we should think of them, and it’s lovely to be in their hometown. J
ames Bracey: The Russian issue obviously has been a big point of debate, but not just when the- obviously, the McLaren Report came out. The IOC decision, and then leading in, the fact that there’s a three man IOC panel who still could throw bans on these athletes. A lot of criticism coming from the International Olympic Committee towards WADA, and you of course are on a 38 person panel, a board, with the World Anti-Doping Agency. How has that been received, that criticism from the International Olympic Committee?
Sussan Ley: Look, it’s a difficult time, I think, for anyone who is in sports administration. We have to do better. I’m meeting the Director-General of WADA on the sidelines of our Commonwealth Sport Ministers meeting today, and rather than enter in any sort of war of words, I think we all have to do better for the athletes. Because to think that our guys who’ve worked so hard are going to walk out into an arena where the playing field is not level … competing against athletes who cheat is just not on, and it’s not enough just to talk the talk. We have to walk the walk. And this Olympics, I believe, is an inflection point. WADA, the IOC, and every single country, government, and athletics federation has to do more to back our athletes, and that’s what I want to do as Australian Sports Minister: back our athletes, every step of the way.
James Bracey: John Coates, the AOC President, Vice-President of the IOC, he’s been quite critical of the process with WADA, and they’re- probably has flagged that they- IOC might call for change at the World Anti-Doping Authority and its current structure. Do you see that happening?
Sussan Ley: We should listen to any calls for change if they result in an improvement, and not get bogged down in tit-for-tat. It’s not doing our athletes or any athletes any favours. So there is work to do, and I’m really – as I said – looking forward to meeting the members of WADA. They’re having a think tank later on. Their executive meeting in November in Switzerland will really hone in on what we can do. So nobody is sitting back saying we’ve done enough, but today, on the eve of the Olympics, I think there’s a great air of optimism and excitement.
James Bracey: Last one on this. Do you believe amongst that optimism there is a hint of disappointment that there might be dirty athletes out there competing over the 17 days?
Sussan Ley: I think there’s some anxiety, and I feel that too, because our athletes need to know when they go out onto the field, when they jump in the water, whatever they do, they are competing on a level playing field. The ethos of the Olympics is fair play, and we should brook no cheating. And that’s what we absolutely have to work a t our hardest to make sure of.
James Bracey: It’s a whirlwind trip for you. You’re here for the Opening Ceremony, obviously meeting some Commonwealth delegates in the lead-up to Gold Coast 2018 for the Commonwealth Games. Are you going to get a chance to see any Aussies chasing any medals, or too busy?
Sussan Ley: The men’s hockey, the swimming finals, straight from the swimming finals to the plane. But everywhere I go at this Commonwealth meeting I’m talking up Gold Coast 2018. It is going to be fantastic.
James Bracey: Can’t wait for that, and in the meantime, can’t wait for this Opening Ceremony to finally get underway tomorrow night. Minister Ley, thanks for your time.
Sussan Ley: Thanks James.