Australia’s sports minister has thrown down the gauntlet to Britain over where the two countries finish in the Beijing Olympics medal table.
Kate Ellis has challenged her British counterpart Gerry Sutcliffe to a bet over which country wins most medals.
Australia finished fourth in the medal table in Athens and Britain back in 10th, but some predictions have had Britain coming out on top in Beijing.
Ellis told Beijing Now: “I am meeting with the British sports minister actually and I might be prepared to put a wager on with him.
“But all I can say is I hope their athletes can handle pressure because their Government is putting it on their shoulders in pretty heavy loads at the moment and I hope they don’t crack under it.”
Sutcliffe responded: “It might mean me having to wear an Australian rugby league shirt at Old Trafford, which could be dangerous. But it’s all healthy fun.”
Sutcliffe’s Cabinet boss, culture, media and sport secretary Andy Burnham, had said countries such as Australia now feared Britain after all the extra cash that has been pumped in aimed at London 2012.
Burnham had said: “Other countries and old rivals like Australia now look to us as a country that got serious about sport and are saying they are in danger of falling behind team GB in the medal table.”
Ellis stoked up the contest by claiming the British often failed to handle the pressure at the very top of sport.
“That’s at an Olympic level and at a number of other sports,” she said. “Australians, we love a challenge and we love to exceed expectations and to punch above our weight and that’s something that we have done on sporting fields and particularly in the past decade or so.
“The English to this point haven’t really been up there with us but we know that they have been putting in a huge effort ahead of London and we know that there are enormous emerging challenges for the Australian team.
“But I’m not sure that they’re ready to pip us just yet – we’ll see.”