Two-time Olympic gold medal winner Kieren Perkins dismisses those criticising the support Ian Thorpe has received in his comeback, saying “You couldn’t buy the publicity, the television coverage, the front and back-page articles that Ian’s return has generated, all these guys whingeing about the money … I think as long as Swimming Australia was using the money appropriately and transparently, there simply isni’t a problem.” Another interesting note in the article here on the Australian:
At 38, he has no grey whiskers to stroke while he muses over how things were better in his day. But the reality is that things really were better in his day.
There was more money in the sport, thanks in no small way to Telstra’s massive sponsorship, swimmers were among Australia’s highest-profile athletes – not just Thorpe and Perkins but also Grant Hackett, Michael Klim, Susie O’Neill, Samantha Riley, Hayley Lewis, Leisel Jones … the list goes on – and even their coaches became household names. And television ratings just kept going through the roof.
And on a similar note in the Sydney Morning Herald:
That was during the quite literally golden era between the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and – but for some reason, not quite including – Beijing 2008, when Kieren Perkins, Ian Thorpe, Susie O’Neill, Grant Hackett, Samantha Riley and the rest were like the cast of a beloved soap opera. Not merely household names, they appeared at least semi-regularly in our households.
It was a time when it was not unsual for more than one million viewers to watch domestic trials, and during which we discovered the Pan Pacs were not one of those economic forums where politicians dress in crazy floral shirts.
Since then? The reasons why swimming has disappeared from mainstream consciousness are well known. Chiefly, there is the eight-year rights agreement Swimming Australia signed with the Ten Network. A deal that has consequently seen the sport abused and not very well used by the station’s no-longer-sports-dedicated affiliate One HD.