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Sport has traditionally been seen to promote positive values and integrity, this is often encapsulated in the idea of being a 'good sport' or 'good sportsmanship'.

High performance athletes who demonstrate these kinds of behaviours can have a significant positive impact on both participation and community perceptions about sport.

Sport can contribute to more integrated societies through promoting a shared sense of belonging and experiences. In this perspective the role of high-performance sport is not necessarily to directly impact participants but to provide shared experiences and role models to demonstrate that all types of people can and do excel at sport.

"Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope, where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination".

Nelson Mandela, Laureus Sport Awards, 25 May 2000. 9


Australians over 18 years feel that Olympic, Paralympic, and Commonwealth Games (OPC) athletes and teams: 3
  • make Australians proud: 86%
  • demonstrate fair play and integrity: 82%
  • are internationally competitive: 87%
  • inspire people to participate in sport: 81%
  • are worthy of government investment: 80%
  • help support health and wellbeing in the population: 78%
  • promote gender equity: 72%
  • have a positive impact on child development and education: 78%
  • are inclusive for all Australians: 76%
  • have a positive influence in my local community: 66%
More than 70% of Australians (18+) believe that Australia’s elite athletes are some of the best role models. 3
Sport creates an estimated $55 billion value for Australia each year, approximately 30% (or $16 billion) of the total value is attributable to high performance sport. 4



Around 80% of Australians (18+) believe that Australia’s national athletes, including our Olympic, Paralympic, Commonwealth Games athletes and teams are worthy of government investment. 3
The rationale for government investment in high performance sport will often capture a number of public sector led policy objectives, including: 4
  • to inspire and raise the profile of the benefits of sport and physical activity to a wide population
  • leverage the hosting of a major sporting event as a catalyst for economic stimulus and urban infrastructure renewal
  • project or showcase a positive national identity to the world for cultural, socio-political and/or economic purposes.
Investment in a wide variety of high performance sports provides the opportunity to better engage with diverse communities and people from different cultural backgrounds and encourages greater community inclusion. 3, 5, 6, 30
54% of Australian adults and 64% of Australian children participate in a sport or physical activity that can be linked to a Olympic, Paralympic, or Commonwealth Games event. 26
2500 categorised athletes are supported by Australia's HP Sport System at any one time, across Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games sports. 28

Pride and inspiration

Australia is widely recognised as a passionate sporting nation. Sport plays a significant role in promoting our popular national culture. It has the capacity to project our shared positive values across many communities within our increasingly diverse and multicultural society.
In 2022-23 Australians 18+ who had started or shown interest in a new sport or becoming more physically active said they had been inspired by: 3
  • watching sport on TV or live (60%)
  • an Australian athlete being a good role model (56%)
  • Australians succeeding internationally (55%)
  • seeing / hearing about Olympic, Paralympic, or Commonwealth Games sports/athletes (55%).
Sport, particularly high performance sport, is one of the most powerful and popular attractions or activities for people to watch/experience either in person or via broadcast. In 2022-23: 3
  • 52% of Australians (18+) watched a live sporting event
  • 29% went to a live sports event
  • 16% bought or wore supporter merchandise for an Australian professional team.
High performance sporting success or hosting sporting events can lead to short-term increases in sport participation (playing and volunteering). These increases are stronger for those who are already engaged with sport and may be caused by: 18
  • demonstration effects
  • positive role models
  • increased familiarity with sports through broadcasting and media coverage.
Long-term participation impact requires additional resources and planning, at both national and local levels, to turn interest into sustained engagement. 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16
The shared camaraderie of watching or cheering for high performance athletes and teams has a strong impact on developing community cohesion. Research suggests that certain groups within the community are more likely to feel pride and happiness from the achievements of elite athletes in international competitions, including: 3, 5, 6, 7, 8
  • individuals with lower educational levels and/or lower incomes
  • black, Indigenous, or migrant backgrounds
  • older respondents.

International diplomacy and reputation

Australia's leadership role in international sport, which includes a reputation for quality athlete performances, coaching, and research, enhances our reputation as a respected global partner. 17
Australia has been highly successful in attracting many of the world’s highest profile sporting events, such as Olympic, Paralympic, and Commonwealth Games, world championships and cups in various sports, the Asian Football Confederation Cup, Formula One Grand Prix, and many more. These events stimulate tourism inflows, international exposure, and other potential economic and social benefits. 18
Australia's high performance sport science, medicine, coaching, and administration expertise makes it a highly desirable international partner. This 'soft power' influence can be used to connect and promote the value of partnering with Australia in various projects both within the Indo-Pacific region and other key markets. 19, 20, 22
Despite its relatively small population, Australia is one of the most prolific contributors to sports science and medicine research in the world. This demonstrates a significant investment in evidence based research in Australia. 23, 24, 25, 27, 29


High performance sport, and in particular Australia’s Olympic, Paralympic, and Commonwealth Games athletes and teams, continue to enjoy support from the majority of Australians.

However, with an increasingly fractured media, broadcasting and content landscape, and a growing number of options for entertainment and physical activities there is a risk that Australians may move away from valuing sport to the same degree.

High performance sport, especially international competitions, are also more likely to be impacted by global events such as increased geo-political tensions, war, terrorism, disease outbreaks, and climate change.21

Sport in Australia will need to focus on continuing to provide high quality sporting experiences for players, fans, volunteers, and the broader community, with integrity and inclusion being key factors in maintaining people’s engagement.

  1. AusPlay Focus: Australians’ participation in Summer Olympic and Paralympic sports, Australian Sports Commission, (May 2021)
  2. AusPlay Focus: Community participation in Commonwealth Games sports, Australian Sports Commission, (July 2022).
  3. Community Perceptions Monitor Annual Report 2022-2023, Australian Sports Commission, (September 2023)
  4. Intergenerational review of Australian sport, BCG Consulting for the Australian Sports Commission, (2017)
  5. Happiness, pride and elite sporting success: What population segments gain most from national athletic achievements? Kirstin Hallmann, Christoph Breuer, Benedikt Kühnreich, Sport Management Review, Volume 16(2), pp.226-235, (May 2013)
  6. The trickle-down effect: what population groups benefit from hosting major sports events? Pamela Wicker and Popi Sotiriadou, International Journal of Event Management Research, Volume 8(2), (2013)
  7. The inspirational effects of three major sport events, Girish Ramchandani and Richard Coleman, International Journal of Event and Festival Management, Volume 3(3), pp.257-271, (2012)
  8. Correlates of pride in the performance success of United States athletes competing on an international stage, Bryan Denham, International Review for the Sociology of Sport, Volume 45(4), (2010)
  9. Nelson Mandela: ‘Sport has the power to change the world’, Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award, 25 May 2000, Monaco, France, Speakola, (accessed 24 November 2022).
  10. Creating sport participation from sport events: making it happen, Laurence Chalip, B. Christine Green, Marijke Taks, et al., International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, Volume 9(2), pp.257-276, (2017).
  11. Long-term impact of the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games on sport participation: A cohort analysis, Kurumi Aizawa, Ji Wu, Yuhei Inoue, et al., Sport Management Review, (26 May 2017).
  12. Mapping the potential societal impacts triggered by elite sport: a conceptual framework, Jens De Rycke and Veerle De Bosscher, International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, Volume 11(3), pp.485-502, (2019).
  13. The Olympic Games and raising sport participation: a systematic review of evidence and an interrogation of policy for a demonstration effect, Weed, Mike; Coren, Esther; Fiore, Jo; et al., European Sport Management Quarterly, Volume 15, Issue 2, (April 2015),
  14. The value of sport and active recreation to New Zealanders, Angus and Associates for Sport NZ, (May 2017).
  15. Sports Index: Participation trends 2015, Market Insights and Consumer Analytics for Sport Singapore, (June 2016).
  16. Delivering sports participation legacies at the grassroots level: The voluntary sports clubs of Glasgow 2014, Macrae E, Journal of Sport Management, Volume 31 (2017).
  17. Sports Diplomacy 2030, Australian Government, Department of Health, (2019).
  18. Major Sporting Event Impact and Legacy, Clearinghouse for Sport, (accessed 24 November 2022).
  19. An update to An India Economic Strategy to 2035: Navigating from potential to delivery, Australian Government, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, (2022).
  20. Sports Diplomacy 2030, Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Health, (2019).
  21. The Future of Australian Sport: The second report: Megatrends shaping the sport sector over coming decades, Australian Sports Commission (ASC), Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), (2022).
  22. Singapore Cycling Federation (SCF) and Australian Cycling Academy (ACA) sign Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for 2 Years to develop cycling talent, Sports in Cycling, (16 November 2021).
  23. Olympic sports science—Bibliometric analysis of all summer and winter Olympic sports research, Millet GP, Brocherie F, Burtscher J, Frontiers in Sports and Active Living, 3:772140, (2021)
  24. Talent Research in Sport 1990–2018: A Scoping Review. Baker J, Wilson S, Johnston K, et al., Frontiers in Psychology, 11:607710, (2020).
  25. Australia: country cards, Global Observatory for Physical Activity (GoPA), (accessed 6 February 2024).
  26. AusPlay dataset, Australian Sports Commission, (accessed April 2022).
  27. Australian Institute of Sport: evidence-based position statements and best practice guidelines, Australian Sports Commission, (accessed 19 December 2022).
  28. National HP Sport Strategy 2032+, Australian Sports Commission, (accessed 19 December 2022).
  29. Research hotspots and trends on sports medicine of athletes: A scientometric analysis from 2003 to 2023, Ye Tao, Mastera, Xiongce Lv, Medicine, Volume 102(39), e35254, (September 2023).
  30. Legacy '23: Women's Football World Cup Post-Tournament Report, Football Australia, (February 2024).


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Last updated: 29 November 2022
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