AOC Awards Highest Honour to Governor-General
9 March 2019
AOC: The AOC awarded its highest honour, the Order of Merit, to outgoing Governor-General, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd), at a ceremony in Sydney overnight.
The award, which recognises remarkable merit in Australians sporting achievement and contribution to sport, acknowledges the Governor-General’s outstanding contribution to the development of sport, support of the Australian Olympic team and athletes throughout his career.
The event brought together Olympic champions across generations including Dawn Fraser AC, Ian Thorpe AM, Steve Hooker OAM, Kim Brennan AM, Jared Tallent OAM, Catherine Skinner OAM and Mack Horton OAM, to show their appreciation for the Governor-General’s ongoing support and advocacy for the Olympic movement.
AOC President John Coates AC, in awarding the Order of Merit, noted the Governor-General had shown his support across the years, including addressing the Rio 2016 team at the Team farewell function and hosting the team at Admiralty House on their return home.
“We are very much indebted to Sir Peter, who has shown tremendous interest in our athletes and in the Olympic movement,” Mr Coates said. “Sir Peter is the first governor-General to receive the Order of Merit and it highlights his long-time support for all Olympic athletes.”
Three-time Olympian and Rio 2016 rowing champion Kim Brennan gave a vote of thanks on behalf of the Olympic athletes.
“We’re here to say thank you to Lady Cosgrove and His Excellency for their wonderful service to sport,” she said. “He’s given so much to sport and the Olympic movement over very many years. He has been an exceptional support, including speaking with our team before we went to Rio.
“As a rower I feel we have a closer bond, as Lake Burley Griffin, our training ground is essentially his backyard pond - on some training sessions when we’d want to push ourselves even further past our normal training course we’d row up to the “G-G’s” house.”
In accepting the award, the Governor-General recognised the importance of sport to Australia and the impact Olympians can have.
“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle,” he said. “The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well. What a recipe for life.
“Every child out at little athletics or at other junior sports, wants to be an Olympian. In a nation that loves its sport, we rely on you, Olympians, for that synergy and emotional bond you have with the sport to show that Australian people have what it takes.
“I am so honoured to have received this award tonight. [Lady Cosgrove and I] will retire and move onto other things. But rest assured, if you’re competing in an Olympic venture, we will be there supporting you and cheering you on, thinking isn’t this one of the best enterprises in all of Australia.”
Highlighting the power of sport above and beyond the field of play, champion swimmer Ian Thorpe invited footballer Hakeem al-Araibi as his guest.
“It was great to be able to bring Hakeem with me tonight,” Thorpe said. “As part of the sporting community that led helping get him back to this country and putting pressure on governments to do what is right, it was good to be able to give him the opportunity to share with some of Australia’s sporting champions, and also share in an event that shows what sport means to Australians.”
Olympic swimming champion John Devitt AM also presented the Governor-General with his book, Cecil Healy: an Autobiography. Acknowledging the Governor-General’s extensive military experience, Devitt was honoured to present the book which tells the story of Australia’s only Olympic gold medallist to die in combat.
“In 1912, Cecil won gold for our team,” Devitt said. “In 1915 he joined your team, and made the ultimate sacrifice for Australia.”