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Sports-mad Aussies Moved by Olympic and Paralympic Athletes

We’re a nation of sport lovers and participants who are proud of and inspired by our Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games athletes, with new data from Sport Australia showing four in five of us are proud of the athletes representing the nation at these global events.

Sport Australia’s latest AusPlay report focuses on participation in Summer Olympic and Paralympic sports finding that 10.4 million Australian adults play an Olympic sport and 1.8 million volunteer in Olympic sports.

The report includes AusPlay data which identifies sport and physical activity habits across Australia, and Sport Australia’s other survey tool, the Community Perceptions Monitor, which captures public attitudes towards sport.

Australians who love to play and watch sport say they are extremely proud of our Olympians and Paralympians, with 32 per cent of Australians surveyed who said they are not interested in sport also admitting our Olympians and Paralympians make them feel proud.

Minister for Sport, Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck said the upcoming Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics present another great opportunity to get Australians more active and involved in sport.

“The report shows that Australians love participating in Olympic sports and also feel a lot of pride and are inspired by our Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games athletes further highlighting that sport really is an essential part of Australian life.”

It is also a ringing endorsement for Australia’s current bid to host the 2032 Brisbane Olympics and Paralympics.

Sport Australia Acting CEO Rob Dalton said the results show the Olympics and Paralympics impact us all, whether it’s playing a sport, volunteering or being inspired watching our Olympians and Paralympians compete.

“Just over 7 million Australians participate in athletics, swimming or cycling each year, making them the most popular Olympic sports,” Mr Dalton said.

Athletics (including running/jogging) is the most popular sport for men while swimming is the most popular sport for women. When it comes to Olympic team sports, football/soccer and basketball are played the most.

“More men participate in shooting, rugby union and mountain biking, while more female participants enjoy equestrian, gymnastics and softball,” Mr Dalton added.

Around four in five adults with long-term disability also participate in some kind of sport or physical activity at least once a year. The top three Paralympic sports are swimming, cycling and athletics making them the same as Olympic sports but in a different order.

Mr Dalton said now is the perfect time to get involved in sport, either as a participant or volunteer adding that you don’t have to play the sport you volunteer in.

“Sports such as rugby union, football/soccer, gymnastics and basketball have a higher number of volunteers who don’t play. In many cases, this could be a parent volunteering to coach their child’s sporting team, but it highlights you just need the time and willingness to get involved and you will enjoy the many benefits that come with being a part of the sporting community.”

More than 3.5 million (or 73 per cent) children participate in an organised sport or physical activity outside of school hours with 2.9 million (or 61 per cent) playing an Olympic sport, with swimming the most popular for both boys and girls.

The report also highlights that there is a Summer Olympic or Paralympic sport for everyone and every age. Sports like athletics, hockey, volleyball, swimming and rowing have similar numbers of male and female participants, while over-55s dominate sports such as golf, sailing, shooting and table tennis.

AusPlay provides the sport sector with vital insights into the sport and physical activity behaviours of adults and children and critical evidence to inform strategies to grow participation.

How many Australian adults participate in an Olympic sport?

18.3 million adults participate in some kind of sport or physical activity (90 per cent)
10.4 million adults participate in an Olympic sport (51 per cent)
2.1 million adults only participate in Olympic sports (11 per cent)
The majority of participation in Olympic sport (76 per cent) is ‘organised’ so participated in through an organisation or at a venue
Australians aged 15+ who participate in an Olympic sport at least once a year.

Sports with fun/enjoyment as their top motivation:

Surfing, 81 per cent
Sailing, 77 per cent
Skate sports, 76 per cent
Equestrian, 74 per cent
Canoeing/kayaking and table tennis, 66 per cent
*Proportion of participants of each sport giving it as a reason for participating.

Sports with physical health/fitness as their top motivation:

Weightlifting, 83 per cent
Athletics (running/jogging), 82 per cent
Boxing, 75 per cent
Rowing, 74 per cent
Cycling, 65 per cent
Proportion of participants of each sport giving it as a reason for participating.

*Top Olympic sports for Australian children: *

Top Olympic sports for boys

Swimming, 32%
Football, 22%
Basketball, 9%
Tennis, 7%
Athletics, 5%
Gymnastics, 4%

Top Olympic sports for girls

Swimming, 35%
Gymnastics, 15%
Football, 7%
Athletics, 5%
Basketball, 5%
Tennis, 5%

Read the full report at

*Supplied by Sport Australia

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