I would like to welcome home Australia’s 2016 Rio Olympic team, which will land early this morning in Sydney.
On behalf of all Australians, I congratulate our athletes, who have represented us over the past two weeks in Rio with dignity and pride.
Australia continues to punch above its weight on the international sporting stage and our athletes have ensured that this Olympics has been no different.
The Olympic Games is the most competitive sporting arena in the world and for many athletes it is the culmination of a lifetime dedicated to their sport – medals or not.
Yes, there’s been some heartache and some disappointment over the past two weeks and as a nation we’ve felt for them every step of the way – but that’s sport.
If the Olympics were predictable we wouldn’t deprive ourselves of sleep every four years. Just look at champions like Chloe Esposito or our Women’s Rugby Sevens team as evidence.
There were plenty of performances like these during the Rio Games that will see the next generation of Olympians running out to take up a sport and learning the important physical and life skills it delivers – something we’re aiming to capitalise on with our landmark Sporting Schools program.
At a time when obesity levels amongst our children are too high – we should not underestimate the benefits in sports participation as a measure of Olympic performance.
Of course, with significant taxpayer investment in elite sports, there will, and should, be time for reflection and debate about the investment we make and the medals we win.
After all, sport is an important part of Australian life and we should strive to be world-beaters.
I look forward to the opportunity to discuss these post competition reviews further when the appropriate time arrives.
But let’s not allow a few performances that didn’t go our way overshadow today the efforts and achievements of a team of 419 athletes dedicated to representing all of us on the world stage to the best of their abilities.
And let’s not forget that, while our athletes may not have triumphed in certain events, we were privileged to bear witness to champions from other countries – the likes of which we may never see again.
Today is very much a day for the athletes and their families and I hope all of them enjoy the warmth of coming home to a nation celebrating their achievements.