You see that old chestnut thrown around from time to time (read: whenever the Olympics is on in Aus) but you've got to ask yourselves whether that holds true relative to the amount of money we pour into sports in the country.
It's no secret that the amount spent on athletes has a pretty direct correlation to how well they do in the games, see England and the lottery. China start pouring money into sports and they overtake America. If India did the same thing, they'd shoot up the medal tally in no time.
Part of the reason Australia have been able to invest so much is because we are a relatively well off country, so I guess the question remains do we really do that well when taking into account the state of our country and investment in sport compared to others?
Furthermore, should we be be investing so heavily into sports? Some would say that us doing well in the Olympics has a tremendous boost on the nations self esteem which would translate well into productivity not to mention health and obesity advantages from making us a 'sporting nation' (though figures may suggest otherwise), others would say the money could be better spent on roads, hospitals, education etc.
A final question which was raised by howardj, should athletes have to pay back a certain amount of what is spent on them if they succeed? When I start working, I'll have to pay the government back for my training, should athletes be any different?