Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Australia needs an Olympics reality check



Photo: Grant Hackett's silver medal.

There is something unseemly about some Australian reporting of and responses to the Olympic games. Yes, we are competitive, but even so enough is enough.

We have twenty one million people, so we pull well above our weight. But we also have a climate that encourages outdoor activities and are a wealthy country that can afford to invest in sport.

As I write, Australia's Olympic committee is busy downgrading its claims on our possible medal tally. The answer, they suggest, is that we spend more money on sport. Commentators have suddenly focused on the possibility that we might be beaten by the British in the medal tally. Tsk Tsk.

In all this, there is a real danger that we will lose sight of just how well our athletes have done. We also seem to have lost sight of the fact that this is sport, that the aim is to do better at a personal level while also having some fun.

I watched Grant Hackett race. Like many Australians, I was on the edge of my chair. I really wanted him to win. However, this was just not for Australia but a personal response to Grant.

Grant was gracious in loss. Unlike some commentators' responses, he suggested that the Tunisian winner had earned his gold. I admired Grant's response. I can and am proud of him as an Australian.

Postscript

I really had to laugh. Going to work yesterday (Thursday 20 August), the Sydney Daily Telegraph poster read: Brits steal our gold with our coaches.

This sort of captured things. The traditional rivalry with Britian, "our gold", the implication that Britain had to use Australian coaches to do it!

5 comments:

Woosang said...

it all gets a bit wearing. I just watch the event and don't listen to the rubbish, really who cares is Great Britain has more medals.

Lexcen said...

Nobody seems to care about silver and bronze.

Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks, both. Congrats Woosang on finishing city to surf.

mike said...

Jack Marx nailed it for me with this comment: "...watching Channel Seven has felt like sitting through a Leni Riefenstahl film festival: the relentless national “medal count”; the slow motion footage of athlete’s faces to strains of Puccini or ‘poignant’ Western pop; commercial after commercial that uses these games and faces to sell their computers and vitamins to people too stupid (that’s us) to know better; the syrupy metaphors, of faces like angles and organs like beasts (for heaven’s sake!). It’s enough to make one hate the very sight of the athletes themselves, who are actually blameless in the whole propaganda."

Jim Belshaw said...

What a great quote, Mike. I would never have thought of that comparison, but it is very apt!