When you think of Canberra, many things may spring to mind – open space, less traffic and a great lifestyle (just to name a few).
A lesser known fact about Canberra is that it’s home to Australia’s premier sports precinct: the Australian Institute of Sport.
The AIS is where Australia’s most elite athletes and sporting stars come to train and be part of world class programs.
Having housed over 4000 athletes in its time, the institute has produced some of Australia’s most prodigious sports stars including Lauren Jackson, Tim Cahill, Ricky Ponting and Petria Thomas.
Athletes that come to the AIS are spoilt with over 65 hectares of world-class training facilities, sports grounds and on-campus accommodation and dining.
“The fact that you can go from your residence, to your training field, to a strength conditioning gym, to your recovery area, to your dining hall, while being in an environment of only athletes is unprecedented” says Craig Fairweather, the Assistant Director of Marketing at the Australian Sports Commission (Incorporating the Australian Institute of Sport).
With one of the highest levels of sports participation in the country, Canberra is the ideal place for anyone wanting to develop their sporting career.
“Sport is very important to Canberra” says Craig Fairweather, “it’s something that locals are very proud of.”
Canberra also has one of the highest levels of education in the country, giving it the ability to attract high-performance workers, something that Craig says is beneficial to the AIS.
“We have an educated, motivated and well-resourced community in Canberra. The AIS plays a very important role in bringing some of these people to the capital.”
The AIS’ close proximity to the University of Canberra and the Australian National University has allowed the institute to access the academic brains and resources of both universities – a benefit to advancements in sports medicine and research in Australia.
But the AIS isn’t just for elite athletes. It also plays an important role in the wider Canberra community. Regular swimming lessons and holiday programs are a big hit among families wanting to experience the precinct’s elite facilities.
“2000 kids a week are swimming here and we have five or six hundred kids every school holidays doing sports vacation programmes. We understand the importance of the place as an asset to the Canberra community.”
The AIS Arena is the largest indoor space in the city and brings national and international sports contests and events to the capital.
As a tourist attraction, Craig says the AIS is in a class of its own.
“It’s a fascinating place because this kind of facility doesn’t exist anywhere else in Australia; there’s a few of them around the world, but they actually don’t encourage visitation.”
The AIS offer guided tours of the precinct, which give a behind the scenes look into the life of an elite athlete (led by real athletes). The young (and young at heart) can challenge themselves at “Sportex”, the institutes leading interactive sports exhibit set amongst a unique collection of Australian sporting memorabilia.