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Government Gambles On Cup For Votes

Government Gambles On Cup For Votes

ACT New Zealand Sport and Recreation Spokesman Stephen Franks today wondered how a silver-ferned black boat competing in Europe was supposed to encourage international tourists, rich or poor, to visit New Zealand.

"How many of us can even remember, for example, that Sweden and France competed here last year - let alone go to there because they came here? It would be different if Team New Zealand won, but even Sport Minister Trevor Mallard does not try to justify the gamble on the grounds that we will win - he says it's worth it just to compete," Mr Franks said.

"What would European tourists want to see of losers - tours of the shed where the boat was built - then repaired? The bay in which it sailed? The bar where Team New Zealand drowns its sorrows?

"It is not as if this money is going to runners up - the Government is picking losers who embarrassed the entire country.

"At the same time, promising young athletes must beg for funding. While the Government was giving Team New Zealand $5.6 million, Swimming New Zealand was announcing its junior team to compete in Australia. Privately, it was telling parents to find $3,000. Two of these swimmers went on to beat every Australian in their age group.

"Mr Mallard and Prime Minister Helen Clark may say that swimming is not glamorous. If they only support glamorous sports, to entice the rich and famous, then what about horse sports? Begging and flattering for sponsorship is as much a part of an equestrian's job as riding the horse. How must they now feel? What about the young Olympic level dinghy, and board, sailors - who have slept on beaches, rather than pay for accommodation?

"The Government is looking for a rub off effect with its $34 million offer, but the only rub off it expects is votes. Tourists will not follow a New Zealand black boat that loses in Portugal or Spain. Foreigners won't even remember where the losing boat came from - despite Mr Mallard's assurances that they will.

"Does Mr Mallard really believe this? I doubt it. He and Prime Minister Helen Clark believe that New Zealanders can be distracted by the aura of nationalism. New Zealanders rightly feel pride in sport well played - but this is not sport, it is politics," Mr Franks said.

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