Almanac Olympics: Gold Medal Recriminations


The recriminations about Australia’s Olympic performance have started in earnest.  AOC boss John Coates has fired an early shot, blaming inappropriate governance at the individual sport end-of-town, or the big-end-of-town as he puts it.  This is a problem that many sports have struggled with; poor governance leading to poor investment decisions, corruption and ultimately even poorer performance.  Largely unregulated, there seems little doubt that improving governance standards in sports will be a good thing.


However, this is perhaps a different discussion when it comes to improving individual performances on the international stage.  Personally, I think a greater focus of increased grass-roots participation in our key competitive sports is the key to developing champions, not the other way around.   We have already seen lots of graphs that try to bring a different perspective to our Olympic performance.  However, one of the pieces of data that would be interesting is an adjustment of the medal count by everyday participation levels for each discipline.  Adjusting by population seems a rather crude metric, as it implies that a country’s population is reflective of its sporting populations.


At any rate, we can expect lots of dissection and spin when it comes to our investment in this Olympics.  My concern is that any witch hunt will embroil all elements of sports funding.  Heaven knows, the grass-roots are slowly withering from lack of sustenance out in ‘club land’ for many sports.


One thing I am certain of, is that golf and tennis (two of my favourite sports) should NOT be Olympics sports; at least not in their current form.  The tweet of excitement about being at the Olympics by Justin Rose as he disembarked his private jet must have thrilled those athletes who had hocked everything just to be there.


Now I like Justin Rose a lot, and personally don’t have a problem with his wealth, earned from his dedication and brilliance at golf.  My problem is that I don’t consider any sport which does not have an Olympic medal as its highest accolade should be included in the program.  Golf and Tennis have spectacular pinnacles – four each per annum in fact.  For golf to take away a golden moment from a sport like softball seems wrong to me.


If the aim was to foster rejuvenation, and golf certainly does need some, then there are perhaps better ways to achieve this.  For example, a sport like golf has a proud and deep amateur tradition.  Why not make golf a U23 amateur event similar to boxing?  It could go even further, in that medal winners could be given starts in the next 4 majors, thus linking the two platforms.  This could potentially provide a springboard for talented young athletes and reward dedicated participation at local clubs.


It is more difficult with tennis, as there is really no amateur concept anymore. The grand slams already have prestigious junior events to foster aspirational development.  I really would prefer to see netball on the agenda as a way to even up wrestling and boxing and foster greater female sporting participation. Personally, I feel Rugby made a better kick at its Olympics opportunity.


Anyhow, it seems that money talks (and sometimes walks) at the Olympics, so it will be illuminating to see what gets to the top of the agenda for coming events.


Australia, let the finger-pointing begin!!

About Peter Robertson

Born and bred in Eumundi and Nambour, in strong company indeed. After studying Maths and Physics at uni in Brisbane, I pursued a business career that I sometimes worry is best described as 'Jack of all trades - master of none'. Having safely made it to my mid 50's, I am still yet to have a real job - but I expect to grow up someday. My love of sport has never waned and I regularly play tennis, golf and surf. Other pursuits include fly fishing and trekking. I have been serving on a few private and NFP boards in sports and other areas to keep me out of mischief.

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