We’re just coming down from our Rio 2016 high. 27 gold medals, beating our tally in London 2012 and China in 2008. But, do great Olympians make our country Great Britain?
It’s a fantastic achievement, that we can’t dispute. But after listening to the Jeremy Vine phone in (a democratic listening choice on a road trip with the family, not my first choice) about how the Olympics make us feel as a nation, I think we need a little perspective. A great sporting achievement does not necessarily make our country a ‘superpower’ all round, only in sport.
Firstly, to give the reader some perspective, I’m not a fan of spectator sports, especially those with huge business structures behind them. This is where the Olympics are different. Yes there’s a huge investment behind funding our athletes training and participation costs, an over £4m per gold it is estimated but also a cost of only £1.09 to each Briton. Some would argue that’s a small price for the emotional value it brings, not to mention the influence Olympic success can have on the younger generation, a demographic group who desperately need hope right now in Great Britain. I found it much more enjoyable watching the Olympics than Premiership football, a point that has been made by many others after London 2012.
What has inspired me are the athletes. Particularly their personal determination to improve their skill and performance. Plus, for my daughters, I can show them about amazing women, working hard towards their goals and becoming big names in international sport. One of the few times in the world of sport women equally share the spotlight with men.
Our position in the medal table is arbitrary in my view, it’s the medal total that counts. As for coming second, we could argue, we’re the greatest sporting superpower who doesn’t have an alleged doping routine.
While Brexiters may consider this shows how great our country truly is, I think we should ask ourselves honestly whether we should consider our Olympic success the shape of things to come politically and socially for Great Britain. There are tough times ahead, we haven’t invoked Article 50 yet. Many of the people commenting on the Jeremy Vine show were using the Olympics as an excuse to justify going it alone but the sporting investment model is not the only used in our society. Our government could actually learn a few lessons about how the funding has yielded success in human beings and their performance!
I won’t be popular making this point so early after the end of the games but I feel all the while we have child poverty, a disenfranchised disabled community, institutional racism and sexism, homelessness, exorbitant rents and poor living conditions plus high levels of unemployment for young people, we cannot call ourselves ‘Great’ Britain. Instead we should be saying, how can we make this post-Rio pride apply to every aspect of our society? How can we use this Olympic success to inspire everyone, including our politicians to make the right choices for our futures?
What I would like to see now is, as well as their juicy (well-earned) sponsorship contracts the athletes will procure, they use their podium to be champions for all aspects for their communities. To show that if someone invests and truly believes in you, anything is possible.