Funding, Resources and the Illusion of Fairness in the World of Sports – ABC News | WHs Answers

Since the 1930 Commonwealth Games were first held in Hamilton, Canada, Australia has won more medals than any other nation and has topped the medal list 13 times. No other country comes close.

The country’s success on a global scale is no accident. Australia invests heavily in all sports, from grassroots programs to talent identification programmes, although many would argue that in real terms investment has been falling and if we are to retain our reputation for ‘beating our weight’ we must give an increase.

But Australia boasts top-notch coaches, world-class facilities and hosts more than its fair share of World Cup and Championship events.

Cate Campbell of Australia reacts after a heat in the women's 100m freestyle at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Australian swimmer Cate Campbell has told FINA that she supports a restriction on transgender athletes while speaking out about the importance of inclusion.(Reuters: Dominic Ebenbichler)

When world and Olympic swimming champion Cate Campbell addressed international swimming delegates at the FINA Congress in June, her speech focused on what she described as the cornerstone of the sport – “fairness”.

Speaking specifically about elite competitions, Campbell cited fairness as a reason why transgender swimmers should be barred from competing in women’s events.

She received broad applause from swimming circles and other advocates against the inclusion of trans women.

Yet fairness in sport, alongside that other well-worn sporting cliché of the ‘level playing field’, seems to be in the eye of the beholder, as a brief comparison of two countries competing in the Commonwealth Games shows.

Australia, Malawi and the Procurement of Fairness

As young girls, Cate Campbell and her medal-winning sister Bronte moved their family to Brisbane from the small landlocked African country of Malawi. They were taken by their parents to join the local swimming club to integrate into the Australian community.

Now Australian, the sisters have taken a swim break and opted to miss the 2022 Commonwealth Games, while one of Malawi’s most recognized swimmers, Tayamika Chang’anamuno, was due to be in Birmingham this week but was dropped from the country’s small three-man swim team became because they could only afford to take two.

Three people in red tracksuits with face masks pose for a photo
Tayamika Chang’anamuno with teammates Filipe Gomes and Ammara Pinto in 2021. Malawi is sending just two swimmers to the Commonwealth Games.(Instagram: @tay_amika)

While Cate broke her vacation to address the World Swimming Federation and reminded them of the importance of fair play, Chang’anamuno set a personal best at the World Swimming Championships.

Her time of 30.81 in the women’s 50m freestyle was the fastest she had ever swum and placed 72nd, good enough to make headlines in Malawi.

“I look forward to meeting you [the Commonwealth Games]although I’m not participating… but I look forward to watching my teammates participate,” Chang’anamuno told The Ticket.

Malawi is about half the size of Victoria but with a population fast approaching that of Australia. With an average age of just 16, it is one of the poorest countries in the world.


There are no indoor pools open to the public, which makes training in winter impossible.

There is not a single Olympic-size 50-meter swimming pool, although the government is said to be building one at a cost of 9 billion Malawian kwacha (US$12 million).

It is extraordinarily expensive for a country where half the population lives below the poverty line.

When asked about the amount, government officials told local media the International Olympic Committee is funding it, a claim the IOC has disputed.

Meanwhile, to keep the sport fair, FINA is proposing to have an “open” category for transgender women.

Bronte Campbell told ABC Sport the issue was “very complicated”.

“You have to balance a community that has been incredibly marginalized and is a very vulnerable community,” she said.

“It’s good to take a first step, but it’s also really important to make sure we work with this community as we move forward.”

Bronte admitted she had never competed or spoken to a transgender swimmer, but said it was good that the discussion was happening.

“I’ve never met one in sport, but I know maybe that’s because there wasn’t a place for them…so being able to do that is important, too,” she said.

Cate and Bronte Campbell
Cate and Bronte Campbell after the women’s 100m freestyle final in Rio 2016.(AP: Lee Jinman)

While swimmers from Malawi are rare, it is unlikely there will ever be a transgender swimmer from Malawi as it is against the law to be transgender, resulting in prison terms and corporal punishment.

Bronte Campbell recalls living in Malawi but knew nothing about the treatment of the LGBTQI+ community in a country where 77.3 percent of the population is Christian and 13.8 percent is Muslim.

“That’s why it’s so important to make sure it’s a fair policy,” she said.

Privilege and fairness in an unjust world

How do you measure what is fair? And who determines the parameters?

Australia has won 936 gold medals, 777 silver medals and 713 bronze medals at the Commonwealth Games for a total of 2,426.

Almost a third of this came from swimming and almost a quarter from athletics. Here’s a question for your next family quiz – name a sport where Australia didn’t win a medal at the Commonwealth Games.

Malawi has competed in every Commonwealth Games since Edinburgh 1970. They have won three medals, all bronze, all in men’s boxing.

While Australia will be torn at having to choose one event over another to cheer on each of their athletes as they contest the latest medal thon, Malawi is pinning its hopes on its netball team, the Malawi Queens, who are currently seventh World.

Courtney Bruce and Mwai Kumwenda face off in the Grand Finals of Super Netball 2022.(AAP: Richard Wainwright)

One of the best players is Mwai Kumwenda, a Premiership shooter for the Melbourne Vixens in Super Netball, the most competitive league in the world. There is not a single professional court in Malawi.

Kumwenda was the top scorer at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. The Queens finished fifth twice at the games, just short of the bronze medal game. This could be your year.

In addition to the 12 members of the Birmingham netball team, there are three track and field athletes, two judo competitors, three boxers and two swimmers. The 22 athletes are accompanied by almost as many officials.

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Money, human rights, justice and privilege – what is fair?(@TraceyLeeHolmes)

In contrast, Australia is funding its largest ever foreign team – 433 athletes and 321 team officials. One of them is expected to become Australia’s 1000th gold medalist.

In many ways, Australia performs on the international sports scene as if it were lucky land, but it is much more than just luck. Today’s officials are generally held accountable, policies are considered, and our politicians support them.

Australia’s team will come to Birmingham as one of the most privileged – well supported financially, physically and mentally.

That won’t be the case for many of our opponents in Birmingham. For her, starting at the starting line has little to do with fairness, even less so for swimmer Tayamika Chang’anamuno, who will be cheering on her teammates from home.

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