Olympics Watching: No compromise viewing
Whilst journalists and Twitter were trying to find the right alliteration for Sunday’s achievements by Team GB, my response was a little more ‘meh’.
Partly because I hate that copy and paste type of celebration. There was a Super Saturday and it was as much about the people in the stadium as it was what was happening on the track and in the long jump pit. Sunday’s events were just a fluke of scheduling that meant medals came in different sports in different venues.
And partly, and I’ll admit it puts me out of kilter with much of the nation, but I can’t feign excitement in stuff I have no real interest in just because of the colour of the kit. Perhaps it’s having the mixed perception of nationality that comes with being born in a country your parents weren’t, but I struggle with the jingoism.
I love great sporting acheivement, but it doesn’t have to bear the same flag as me for me to appreciate it. The opposite it true as well.
I’ve never been one for gymnastics, which I’m sure is some sort of Olympic heresy. First off I struggle with sports that are subjective, where judges make decisions. And secondly I don’t much see the point.
Don’t get me wrong, the level of strength and athleticism is amazing, but where in history did someone go ‘you see that horsey looking thing, if you spin around and around and do handstands on it, I’ll rate how good you are at it’.
I heard a commentator say ‘the last time that happened, rope climbing was part of the Gymnastics programme’.
It was said in a completely disparaging way, but all I could think was ‘climbing rope, that makes total sense’.
Chucking spears, running fast, jumping high, swimming far, climbing rope…sounds ancient Olympic doesn’t it?
I don’t much care for wrestling either, but it was a scandal they nearly kicked that out of the Games. What could be more Olympic than Greco-Roman?
Yeah I know, I watch basketball and how Olympic is that? More popular in modern Greece than ancient, I’ll admit. But getting a ball through a hoop? The Mayans were doing that.
Anyway, my own sporting prejudices aside, since I launched a petition calling for the reconstitution of UK Sport a few years ago, I’ve become far more transactional when assessing GB’s performance in Olympic sports, particularly the ones I have no personal interest in.
For our £14.6m investment in Gymnastics (up £4m from London) we expected 3–5 medals. So we’re at the top end of par then, with probably more gold than expected? Fair play, that’s a decent return on investment.
Cynical isn’t it? But I didn’t make the rules. I don’t even like them. I just observe them.
And the one team sport to survive with funding from the last cycle? Target of 1–2 medals for the £16m (again increased from London) and the men finished ninth out of twelve. My judgement is whatever the women’s hockey team do, that’s not enough value.
It also means I don’t buy they ‘we should be so proud of them, they tried their very best’ line any more. I cringe when I hear commentators or interviewers peddle it out nowadays.
It’s a very British thing, the noble art of not succeeding and being very proud of effort. And in the days of Atlanta ’96 it was basically all we had when the Olympics came around.
But in these halcyon days of financial doping, it doesn’t wash any more.
If we are counting the number of ‘podium athletes’ and ‘podium potential athletes’ — as UK Sport actually is — and providing them with everything possible to succeed, then, more or less, they have to succeed.
We paid good money for those medals after all and they aren’t cheap, so we should now expect them.
If we have no compromise funding, shouldn’t we have no compromise viewing as well?
We, the British public need to move on, success is not fluked any more, we’re paying for it —about a quarter of a billion pounds per cycle for each of the last three Olympics.
We need to be more demanding, more expectant and not react like it’s 1996.
So well done Gymnastics for ‘our’ investment you delivered what was expected, doubtless another financial bonus is coming your way ahead of Tokyo.
Anyway, the great thing about 21st century Olympics is I get to watch what I want now, not what my local broadcaster think I should. Dancing horses? Nah, I’ll take a bit of double overtime Brazil-Argentina instead.