Australia’s cashed-up Olympians to limit public appearances

August 23rd, 2008 - 4:03 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Aug 23 (DPA) Australian fans who cheered silver medallist Sally McLellan over the hurdles and triple-golden-girl Stephanie Rice in the swimming sprints were Saturday primed to see a lot less of their Beijing Games go-getters.McLellan and Rice have signed exclusive contracts with a commercial network that severely limits their public appearances in return for wads of cash.

“Athletes are entitled to optimise their opportunities to appear,” Australian Olympic supremo John Coates said when asked his view of cheque-book broadcasting.

Rice’s $700,000 two-year deal whipped up more criticism of the free scholarships athletes who attend the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS).

While university students in the arts or sciences - even those who achieve world renown - have to pay back the cost of their tuition, multi-millionaire ex-AIS jocks like Shane Warne and Ian Thorpe don’t have to recompense the taxpayer.

In a letter to The Sydney Morning Herald, David Morrison sprang to the defence of Olympians in the green and gold.

“If taxpayer-supported athletes owe anything to us as a nation, it’s simply to train well and do their best on the day,” he wrote. “If we make them feel they owe us more than that, we should be ashamed of ourselves.”

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