Sunday, 5 August 2012

Olympic Private School Bollocks

From the Telegraph
Part of the joy of the Olympics is discovering sports that had been off the cultural radar – especially when Britain turns out to be good at them.
So it was rather unfortunate timing that, on the very day the nation learned to cherish double trap shooting, judo and canoe slalom, the head of the British Olympic Association should claim that these sports – or rather, Olympic sport in general – could learn from the bloated, commercialised world of football.
Lord Moynihan’s point, which has been made by politicians including the Prime Minister and the Education Secretary, is that elite sport – like so many top professions – is dominated by the products of the private education system. “One of the worst statistics in British sport,” he reminded us, is that half of our medals in Beijing came from the sector: for every state-schooled Bradley Wiggins, there is a Heather Stanning (Gordonstoun) or Peter Wilson (Millfield).
Let's tackle the first thing here. The Olympics are mostly NOT elite sports. They are mostly minor, amateur sports. If they were elite sports, there would be a huge and constant audience for them, resulting in professional leagues and prizes. Outside the Olympics, major rowing and swimming events are not heavily supported by the public. They can't charge what Man Utd charge or fill such a large stadium even once a year, let alone every week. They mostly rely on lottery subsidy.
The interest of many people in the Olympics is simply nationalism. If there was Olympic one-footed monopoly, they'd support it. If that floats your boat, fine, but don't pretend that a sport that you've never heard of means anything in terms of sport.
It is true that the estimable Mr Gove does have the air of a man who prefers the library to the sports field, but this is a long-standing problem for which no party or politician can take sole blame.
There isn't a problem. When you look at highly competitive events, the ones that people get paid to participate in (and will therefore draw the best people), you see a different set of facts. Bradley Wiggins? State educated. Lizzie Armistead? State educated. Jessica Ennis? State educated. Mo Farah? State educated.
The only reason we have a disproportionate number of independent school kids winning medals is because they're doing events that poor kids and poor foreigners can't afford to do. If you don't have the money or access to a rowing club and frankly prefer the benefits of Old Trafford, you're not going to do the rowing. And that applies to everyone around the world. Name a world famous foreign rower. Now do the same with football. Exactly.
To turn this round, schools need not just resources – such as pools or playing fields – but a whole-hearted embrace of sport and its benefits. The motto of these Games is “Inspire a Generation”. We must ensure that it ends up as a mission statement, rather than a slogan.
And little of that will make much difference to Olympic numbers because most kids simply don't have access to the kit to win the easier medals. They play cricket, rugby and football because you can do it in the park with a bat and a ball and for most of them, that's who their heroes are.

The idea that the Olympics will inspire kids through showjumping and canoeing more than Rooney or Beckham have is just a joke, and if you're aiming at improving participation, a very expensive one.

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