Anthony Albanese with people at the Australian Institute of Sport.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese shakes the hand of Matildas player Michelle Heyman at the AIS. Image by Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS
  • politics

‘Decaying’ sport institute gets $250m Olympic makeover

Jacob Shteyman May 10, 2024

Australia’s crumbling centre of sporting excellence will receive a much-needed $250 million facelift to prepare the nation’s top athletes for the 2032 Brisbane Olympics.

The Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra has been thrown the lifeline to build housing for athletes, an indoor training facility and a high-performance training and testing centre.

The funding will “rescue” the neglected facility, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said as he unveiled the package ahead of Tuesday’s federal budget.

Anthony Albanese with athletes at the AIS.
 A report into the condition of the institute found it was non-compliant for para-athletes. Image by Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS 

“This facility has been allowed to decay and not be as good as it should be,” he said on Friday. 

“This national asset will now be of enormous quality and will be something that we can be proud of – and that will benefit not just Canberra, but will benefit the entire nation.”

Australian Sports Commission chief executive Kieren Perkins said “the largest investment into the AIS since inception” would put Australian athletes on the front foot for Olympic Games success.

The Australian Olympic Committee and Commonwealth Games Australia similarly welcomed the commitment.

“Access to modern, fit-for-purpose facilities is a key part of the bigger picture – Australia producing world-class athletes, inspiring Australians to participate in sport and creating a healthier and happier community,” AOC president Ian Chesterman said.

Indoor running track at the Australian Institute of Sport
 A report found the AIS was rundown and no longer fit-for-purpose. Image by Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS 

The funding forms part of the government’s response to an independent review into the state of the AIS.

The review’s authors – Robyn Smith and Erin Flaherty – said the AIS was “the benchmark model to achieve sporting success” when it was established in 1981, but had since become “tired, not fit-for-purpose and in particular, non-compliant with the needs of para-athletes”.

While major sporting codes have set up high-performance pathways, the centralised model still provided “an essential spine” for smaller sports such as combat sports and “millennial sports” including skating and mountain biking.

The report recommended constructing a multi-storey, 250-bed accommodation facility, a fully accessible multi-sports dome for track and field and rectangular football codes and a training and testing centre to replace ageing assets.

A further $10 million will be set aside to develop a precinct master plan to ensure the Bruce site is fit for purpose. 

A detailed plan for the site’s redevelopment is being finalised.

Sports Minister Anika Wells said investment was needed now because it takes up to eight years to prepare an athlete for the highest level of competition.

Queensland Premier Steven Miles in February backed calls from former AIS chair John Wylie and director Andrew Fraser to relocate the facility to the Sunshine State, but this was rejected by the report and the federal government.

Acting ACT chief minister Yvette Berry called it a great day for Canberra as the overhaul would create local jobs and recognise the city’s role as the national capital.