Many years ago I would tune in to watch various sports just because I liked the sport. I eventually chose a team to support and then watched sports to identify with my team’s win’s and loses. Then I grew to understand my identity as English and began to follow International sporting events with great vigor such as the 2012 Olympics and World Cup etc.
But now I am at a new stage in my sporting journey, a point I don’t much like or could love. I’m tuning in to follow the Sochi Winter Olympics because I enjoy sports and understand my English citizenship and this being an International sporting event. However so far it has bee a little demoralising.
Not because Team GB isn’t winning many medals, that cant take away the joy of cheering on your country in the Olympics, no, it’s much simpler than that, it’s simply because we hardly have any competitors actually in the Olympics let alone those in with a fighting chance.
Strangely this lack of presence put me on a bit of a morale downhill slalom of my own. I am now at the stage in life where I can recognise a country’s presence on the world stage from sports is about more than just sports. A sporting event is much more than just sporting competition it’s a political statement.
It all makes more sense now, the Olympics during WW2, the famous “Black Fist” at the Olympics, the Munich games terror plot, the Gay rights politics of this year’s Olympics in Russia. It truly is a political affair and none more so than the number of competitors and the number of winners.
Gold, Silver and Bronze now has a new meaning similar to that of a Presidential election, a lack of competitors is much like the Raving Loony Party, the Green Party or the BNP, they’re in the running but never really gonna win, just reminding people they are still around.
The 2012 Olympics was great to see, not only the hosting of the Games in London but the large numbers of Athletes that qualified and ended up winning medals. Each day I would tune in to see the medals leadership board. Ignoring the first 2 places, expecting USA and China to be battling it out, for me 3rd 4th and 5th where the real 1st 2nd and 3rd.
This year however I have tuned in to a few events only to see 1 or no competitors representing Team GB which is a crying shame.
Is it the lack of snow annually or the lack of funding? Is it the lack of interest or the lack of access? What has left Team GB falling behind at the Winter Olympics and why on earth does it relate to how I feel this represents us politically?
I have my theories but without having some insider information I assume that snow and ice sports are less interesting to Great Britain than Track and Field. This is shown in our society when you look around for any Ice and snow pursuits in the UK, when I was growing up there was a few Ice Rinks around and a regular snow fall left you rushing for the sledges. But now that most of the Ice Rinks have closed down in the UK, due to lack of interest and cost effectiveness, we have little snow fall that we can enjoy or prepare for annually, we see snow as some what of a burden in society rather than understanding it in our culture and embracing it like the Russians and Canadians, who seem to firmly work with snow and ice as a part of the culture.
So snow is a chore and our sports investment is better spent on other sports such as Track and Field in Great British culture. So who are those representing Team GB in the Winter Olympics?
I can only imagine that they are very dedicated competitors that have a real passion for their sport, they must have a sacrificial attitude towards their sport forsaking all other costly pursuits. There are a few dry ski slops around the UK and there are a few indoor snow slopes but not much of a run can be achieved due to the hight of those slopes, and the costs to participate on those slopes alone is comparable to a University degree if you practice regularly, not to mention the kit required. Then there is the trips abroad to use “Real” sloped abroad. It was always seen as the sport for the wealthy because of the cost of those holidays and again the kit involved. This has change a little over the years but regular attendance of any “real” slope still wont be something the middle class family could achieve on a regular basis. This only leaves young single working people or the wealthier members of society that will have regular access to any kind of “real” practice, or as I mentioned someone with a sacrifice all attitude to their winter sport.
Should the UK invest more in their Winter Sports or Sports in General? I can only say that now that I understand the morale value of those sports on a Whole Country’s attitude a great big YES!
The cost on society as a whole is far reaching and for many years. The cost on the Global political arena is also far reaching and for many years. It is a bit like international marketing and we all know that good marketing can make a business more credible internationally but bad marketing can break a company.
It’s no different from sponsorship in Motorsports for example F1 racing, sponsors or car makers use the sport to advertise a road car for purchase and innovate and perfect performance.
These simple aspects of sport cross over into the political sector by simple human nature, people by nature like to support and back the best and if you are falling behind then your value on the global market also falls. This is no different in international sports, our attitudes towards everyday life and investment is affected by our win or lose attitude. If we seem to be slipping behind in any aspect of global competition it affects the citizens attitude to like and progress but also the way the rest of the world vies you on the global market. Business investment is a part of this process, A Gold medal in the right sport can make a country seem very appetising to invest in for business and support. Usain Bolt is a great example of this, human emotion, he is a marketing superhero, not only does it get international support with people from all over the world cheering on this amazing competitor but they also wave the Jamaican flag but to buy the Puma (Usain Bolt’s sponsor) products with the Jamaican colours all over it. This affects society within Jamaica and attitudes towards Jamaica, especially when the other medal winners are also from Jamaica, in the same race, but this then leads you to watch the Jamaicans closer in other sports as well e.g. the womens sprints etc.
Politically speaking, you have a presence, you show that you are progressive with your training but as we know this then is an example of the possibility of progressiveness in all other aspects of the society.
We as a nation need more to unite over, more to cheer, more to support, more to encourage and more to increase our flailing political influence and it wont come from deep pockets and short arms it comes from investment, marketing strategy and quite frankly showing off what we can achieve.