I hope I’ve waited long enough since the closing ceremony to make a stroppy comment about the Olympic Games. Actually, it’s not about the Games themselves; it’s about the way certain nations have reacted to the medal tally:
More particularly, it’s about the one-eyed jingoism in the UK (whose athletes are described as Team GB, pointedly excluding any from Northern Ireland) and the public hostility to Australian athletes who failed to justify the huge public investment in their training by winning gold medals. If you find the latter hard to believe, read this article at the news.com.au website headed ‘Is Australia’s disastrous Olympic campaign really $340 million well spent?’
Just like diplomacy, the Olympics have become ‘war by other means’. Rich countries spend huge amounts of public money on employing and training elite athletes, and then claim their position in the medal tally as an indicator of national worth. Is it really more important to British people that Team GB’s gold medal count exceeded China’s (and Germany’s and Japan’s and France’s) than that British athletes strove to do their best against their peers and fell below 3rd place with good grace? Do Australian taxpayers really think the Games are about buying medals?
We all know what comes next. China will launch a massive expenditure programme to ensure that they come 2nd in 2020. The Japanese will do likewise to ensure that, as the host nation, they at least come 3rd.
Finally, I hope that calls for British people to buy lottery tickets as an act of patriotism, because much of the investment in athletic prowess was funded from the National Lottery, will cease. What if the main contributors were manufacturers of junk food, fizzy drinks and tobacco? Or importers of cocaine? Or brothel-keepers?