Monday, August 13, 2012

I remember when...

Had there been an Olympic sport of beekeeing, yesterday I would have been in contention for a medal in the race to inspect as many hives as possible in one afternoon. We managed to check all 8 of ours in under two hours. Surely a record!

And so to the closing ceremony of the Olympics. The curtain came down on the games with an extravaganza of British music from the past 50 years. Alas, whilst I could get excited about Queen, ELO, John Lennon, Madness, Take That (minus Robbie) and even the Spice Girls, all from some part of my past, some of the younger musicians were leaving me scratching my head and asking, “Who are they?” A sure sign that I am getting old!
With a gold medal haul of 29, our best since 1908, and with music of the 70s and 80s ringing in my ears, I was able to reminisce about the bad old days at the Olympics. I remember when the Soviets and East Germans soaked up a lion’s share of the gold medals. For those two countries, it was all about attempting to show their system was the best. They had repressive regimes, paranoid governments and a socialist system that certainly did not provide according to need (other than the party hacks who lived a life a privilege) but at least they could cover their failure with sporting triumphs and a haul of medals that probably trebled their entire country’s gold reserves. For us now to beat Russia (admittedly stripped of the other Soviet republics) has to be seen as a triumph. We have one fifth the population of the USA and one twentieth that of China. We have therefore a smaller pool from which to choose our champions. That makes Team GB’s performance all the more remarkable. The question now is, where do we go from here as a sporting country and how to we get there?

A final point about the Olympics. Men’s football has vast resources poured into it. It’s a sport that has taken a disproportionate share of the money available for sport broadcasting rights. The top clubs pay their players unsustainably huge wages. Yet their performance at the Olympics was relatively poor. Why isn’t all that money buying the best?

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