Friday, 3 August 2012

London 2012 - May the Best Athlete Win!

The first week of the Olympics in Australia has been extraordinary. On the first day an Australian women's relay team won a gold medal and the media and the nation were jubilant. Then we saw the long slow decline of so many aspects of our modern society, in all it's ugliness, when no more gold came our way.

Disaster, fail, poor sports, embittered competitors, media dissection, endless excuses and questioning of coaches, of funding, or the athlete's character. And all this while nine incredibly gifted young athletes from our country won silver medals and four more won bronze, not to mention a high number who made finals and then just missed being on the medal dais by the narrowest of margins. As well as those who looked so humbled by simply being in that first heat of their event and wearing a tag that made them an official Olympian, a tag they could keep for the rest of their life.

Eric the Eel - Sydney 2000 Olympics.

I'm sure everyone is proud of all of them, even those belittling their performance, but why do commentators need to voice personal opinions, during events, about the lack of an athlete's work ethic, or that the performance of the team is somehow less than it has been in the past. They are dissecting the funding received and looking at Australian coaches being lured away to train other athletes from other countries as reasons for not winning gold. No-one has yet suggested an athlete didn't win gold because they didn't have the natural ability to match that of the winner or the other athletes ahead of them.

Australia is a country of 24 million people. In some Olympic competitions we have punched well above our weight. Very rarely if ever, that I can remember, have we fallen below. This year we are about were statistics would place us if one of those geeky maths guys ran the Olympics and took all factors of wealth, opportunity and populations sizes into consideration and then assigned medals from his calculator. That's an Olympics I certainly wouldn't care about, at least, on my statistics, I would be 71.483 percent recurring less likely to care about it.

Australian Olympics Medal Tally
2008 - 14 gold, 15 silver, 17 bronze - 46 medals
2004 - 17 gold, 16 silver, 16 bronze - 49 medals
2000 - 16 gold, 25 silver, 17 bronze - 58 medals
1996 -    9 gold,  9 silver, 23 bronze - 41 medals
1992 -    7 gold,  9 silver,  11 bronze - 27 medals
1988 -    3 gold,  6 silver,    5 bronze - 14 medals

Maybe, just maybe, the Olympics have some lessons for us. Extraordinary lessons, astounding ideas that have never been thought of by anyone before in human history:

Winning isn't everything. Anon.
I want to be able to say: I gave it all I could, I gave it my best. Anon.
Don't judge those who try and fail, judge those who fail to try. Anon.
If you are not big enough to lose, you are not big enough to win - Walter Ruether.
 People succeed when they realise their failures are the preparation for success. Emerson

It seems I am wrong - many people have thought these same things, many times before - so why is the media acting like a top floor executive and only caring about the bottom line?
Once again it's because the news has become entertainment. It's big business to attract viewers and keep them watching. They do this with proven formulas of emotional back stories that tug at our hear strings and by creating controversy. Then they elevate the personality of correspondents they own and these correspondents allow themselves to be swept up in the world of celebrity, forgetting what it means to be a journalist and a reporter.

I have some favourite Australian reporters across many fields. These are people I trust and admire. When it comes to sport Australia is blessed, but all too often you can see the drift of a great journalistic mind being slowly chipped away and perverted as to what their role is by aligning themselves with a network who own them and push them towards being the story as opposed to reporting on it.

I'd like to see them all keep their conjecture to themselves and report on what is in front of the. If a person is at the Olympics they've already won. If they win a medal they're extraordinary. If they don't, it doesn't reflect badly on anyone and needs no excuses or derision from anyone.

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