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The 1997-98 Survey of Sport and Physical Activities recorded even higher participation rates. This survey included social sports and physical activities, but excluded running, jogging or walking when it was not organised by a club or association. In 1997-98, 48% of persons aged 18 and over had participated, as a player, in a sport or physical activity on at least one occasion over the previous 12 months.
Irrespective of the measure used, participation rates were substantially higher for men than women and for young adults than older people. Using the broader measure of participation from the 1997-98 survey, for instance, participation rates among men declined from 78% for those aged 18-24 to 25% for those aged 65 years and over, while among women they declined from 64% to 19% for the equivalent age groups.
Over the short period for which comparative figures are available (1993 and 1997), levels of participation in sport as a player remained much the same (about 36% for men and 22% for women, as measured by the Involvement in Sports surveys - see table S5.2). However, some small changes are apparent. This was particularly so among women in the 25-34 and 35-44 year age ranges, where their levels of participation in sport fell by about two percentage points. Against this trend, small increases appear to have occurred in participation rates among older men and women.
A notable change, among players in particular, has been the increase in numbers of people being paid for their involvement in sport. In 1997, 142,600 people were paid for playing a sport, compared with 57,000 in 1993. The number of paid players as a proportion of all players (3.5% in 1997) has nonetheless remained quite small. The number of paid non-players also increased, but to a lesser extent - an increase of 37,800 to a total of 203,900 people in 1997.
Popular sports and physical activities
The level of involvement in particular sports varies greatly by the age of the players, and although most sports are played by both men and women, some sports, such as cricket and netball, are much more likely to be dominated by one gender group. A feature of children's involvement in sport, apart from having much greater participation than adults, is that they are more likely to play a team sport requiring larger numbers of players. The opportunity that team sports provide for teaching social skills and the convenience of arranging group activities for children, who have comparatively large blocks of free time, are likely to be among the main reasons for the difference.
Sports played by children
In 1996-97, 61% of children aged 5-14 (1.6 million altogether) had played a sport organised by a club, association or school in the previous 12 months. As with adults, boys (65%) were more likely to have participated than girls (57%). For the large majority of children who had played an organised sport (87%), it had been organised by a club. However, 34% of children involved in an organised sport had participated in a school-organised sport out of school hours.
Taking boys and girls together, the two most popular organised sports among children in 1996-97 were swimming and basketball (331,900 and 235,500 participants, respectively) with netball (233,700 participants - dominated by girls) and outdoor soccer (228,800 participants - dominated by boys) following closely behind (table S5.3). The most popular organised sport among boys in 1996-97, with 208,600 participants, was outdoor soccer. Other football codes, including Australian Rules and to a lesser extent Rugby League (183,700 and 84,400 participants), were also popular. Cricket (outdoor - 165,200) was the third most popular organised sport played by boys. Dancing and gymnastics ranked among the six most popular organised sports for girls, with 133,500 and 57,500 participants, respectively.
Sporting activities among adults
As with children, swimming was the most popular sporting activity among adults (those aged 18 years and over). In 1997-98, 1.6 million adults (12%) had been for a swim on at least one occasion during the year (84% of whom had been for a swim on more than 6 occasions) (table S5.4). Swimming ranked among the most popular sports for all age groups, although aerobics/fitness was equally popular with those aged 18-34 (both 18%), and golf ranked as the most commonly played sport among adults aged 45 years and over with 8%, followed by swimming (7%).
Overall, with 1.4 million participants, aerobics/fitness was the second most popular sporting or physical activity with adults in 1997-98. This was followed by golf (1.1 million participants) and tennis (937,800 participants).
For men, the most popular sports were golf (873,700 participants), swimming (732,800) and aerobics/fitness (503,000). While no single code of football was among the top ten sports and physical activities undertaken by men, a total of 660,900 men played some form of football. Outdoor soccer was the most popular code, with 199,700 participants, followed by Australian Rules with 152,900. Touch football (147,100) was more popular than Rugby League (86,600) and Rugby Union (41,400).
For women, swimming and aerobics/fitness were by far the most popular physical activities, with 896,000 and 876,200 participants respectively. Other popular sports for women were tennis (474,200 participants) and netball (285,800).
Older people who have enjoyed competitive sport at younger ages are often keen to maintain or renew their active involvement by competing with their peers. The Australian Masters' Games is a multi-sports festival for mature-aged people conducted biennially in various locations throughout Australia. Ownership of the Games is held in trust by the Confederation of Australian Sport (CAS). Competition in a variety of sports (51 in Melbourne in 1995 and 39 in Canberra in 1997) is usually offered in five-year age spans, starting at 30 and continuing into the 90s. While the number of participants in Masters' Games increased substantially over the decade to 1997, average ages remained fairly constant, indicating an increase in participants over all ages (table S5.5).
The success of the Masters' Games reflects the wider participation in Masters sports by mature-aged people. Growth in the number of sports providing participation was most rapid in the 1980s, when 44 more sports were included on top of the 17 that had started between 1950 and 1979. Reports from many sporting bodies to the CAS indicate that Masters is the fastest growing area in their sport, in terms of numbers of participants.5
Time and other costs
Sport and exercise take up time and often cost money. Results from the 1997 ABS Time Use Survey indicate that an average of 21 minutes each day is spent on sport or physical exercise (excluding fishing) by people aged 15 years and over, if all people in this age group are included. If limited to those who participated, however, considerably more time was allocated to these activities - on average, 1hr:14mins each day. According to the 1996-97 Survey of Participation in Sport and Physical Activities, an average of $693 was spent over the year by each participant in organised sport on membership and weekly fees, clothing and equipment, and other related expenses.
Employment status of players
While unemployed people may have more time for recreational activities such as sport, it is also likely that they are less able to afford the expense of organised sporting activities. Employed people were more likely to participate in sport (60% of men and 54% of women) than those unemployed (50% and 46% respectively) (table S5.6).
Men and women who were not in the labour force were the least likely to play sport, with only 31% and 30% participating, respectively. However, many in this group would have been older retired people, who are less likely to play sport than younger people.
State and Territory differences
Differences in levels of participation in sport and physical activities in different parts of the country are in part affected by the age profiles of those populations, but other factors such as climate and life-style preferences of individuals may also be important. These differences can be observed between the States and Territories. In 1997-98, residents of the Australian Capital Territory (aged 18 and over) recorded the highest participation rate (64%). New South Wales and South Australia, on the other hand, recorded the lowest participation rates (both 45%). The biggest difference between the participation of men and women was in the Australian Capital Territory (72% and 56% respectively) (table S5.7).
Reasons for discontinuing sport
People may discontinue one sport and take up another, or they may give sport up altogether. Also, with increasing age, fewer people engage in physical activities. The most common reason for giving up a sporting activity, among the 1.8 million people who reported having discontinued an organised activity during the two years prior to 1996-97, was lack of time. Men (31%) were more likely to give lack of time as a reason than women (24%) (table S5.8). With 228,800 people saying that they had a sports-related injury in 19956, it is not surprising that the presence of injury or health problems was also commonly stated as the reason for discontinuing a sporting activity (21%).
Although women were more likely than men to discontinue an organised sport or physical activity because of child care problems, only a small proportion (3.5%, or 36,600 women) gave this as a reason.
Non-player involvement in sport
In the 12 months to March 1997, 13% of males and 10% of females aged 15 years and over had been involved in sport as non-players. The most common type of non-playing involvement was as a coach, instructor or teacher, with 628,300 people (4%) acting in this capacity (table S5.9). Almost as many (605,800, or 4%) were members of a committee.
Only a small minority (10%) were paid for their non-playing involvement, mostly for coaching (41%) or refereeing (31%). Non-playing involvement in sport was most common for persons aged 35-44 years, with a participation rate of 18%. This group includes many parents who are likely to be involved in supporting their children's sporting interests (see Australian Social Trends 1997, 'Voluntary work', pp. 109-112).
Attendance at sporting events
Australians enjoy watching sporting events. According to a survey conducted by the ABS in November 19977, sporting programmes were the most commonly watched on television after news and current affairs programmes, and were viewed regularly by over half of all Australians aged over 18 (55%). As well as watching sporting events on television, attending sports events (such as club matches and international competitions) is also a popular pastime.
During the 12 months ended March 1995, 6.2 million people, (44% of all people aged 15 and over), had attended a sporting event (excluding junior and school sport). Men (52%) were more likely to have attended than women (37%). For both men and women, attendance rates were highest for the 15-24 age group (63% and 55% respectively) and steadily declined with age. Among men aged 65 and over, the attendance rate was 28%, while for women in this age group it was 15%.
The most popular spectator sport was Australian Rules football, almost 1.9 million people having attended this sport on at least one occasion during the year (table S5.10). Horse racing (1.7 million), Rugby League (1.5 million) and cricket (1.2 million) were also among the most popular spectator sports.
Sydney 2000 Olympic Games
The largest sporting event in the world, involving both the largest numbers of participants and spectators, is the Olympic Games conducted every four years, almost continuously, since 1896. At the 1996 Games (in Atlanta, USA) 8.4 million tickets were sold to spectators8 and 10,744 athletes participated.9 Billions of people all over the world viewed the games live through satellite broadcasts to their television sets.
The Sydney 2000 Olympic Games will be held between the 15th of September and 1st of October 2000. Up to 10,200 athletes from 200 countries are expected to take part in 28 sports, and around 5.5 million tickets are expected to be sold.10 The Australian team is expected to have nearly 700 athletes, and over one million Australians are expected to attend the games.
The Paralympics will be held between 18th and 29th of October 2000 and will involve more than 4,000 athletes from 125 countries.
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