Another Olympics Post-Mortem

The Olympic Games showcase the world’s greatest athletes and allow us ordinary citizens to join our heroes on their Olympic journey. As spectators we want our athletes to win because this is how we participate in an event that most of us are unlikely to ever attend either as a competitor or athlete.

There have been many magnificent moments at London 2012. The City of London, Usain Bolt – the medals, the bravado, the showman; Chris Hoy, surely the greatest track cyclist ever; Anna Meares, the greatest female track cyclists; Sally Pearson; Andy Murray finally winning a major tennis tournament; Australian sailing… We all have our own list and now sadly the festivities have ended.

Amongst these great moments though, has been the (dare I say it, usual?) negativity of the Australian media. What is it that the Olympics represent? Shouldn’t they be a celebration of athletic prowess, participation and sportsmanship and a way of uniting as a country? Instead, London 2012 for Australian audiences has been lost in arguments over economics, funding, our worst Olympics since Barcelona, etc. What has been most disappointing about the Olympics is the media’s obsession with Australian ‘failures’ over the last two weeks. I’m not sure if the media reflects the thoughts of a nation or if the thoughts of Australians drive the media but what has been unmistakable is the arrogance and negativity that has become the key message of Australia’s 2012 Olympic campaign. Some of this arrogance and negativity has been created directly by the athletes, but where do these attitudes begin if not through how they represent themselves in the media?

The Olympics began two weeks ago with our collective attention focussed on the Australian Swim Team. Our collective excitement at the beginning of the competition quickly turned to disappointment, not in their results, but in their arrogance. In many ways, James Magnussen and co, been the architects of their own downfall. There is little doubt that if you label yourself ‘The Missile’ and tell the Australian public how good you are, and then fail to deliver, you have set yourself up for a monumental failure. We can only hope that Mr Magnussen and his colleagues have learnt the valuable lesson of humility in all of this. It is even possible to mount a defence of Magnussen. He is after all just a young bloke who is far too full of himself, but there is something about his behaviour that suggests what we saw during the Olympic relay is the man’s true character. Magnussen and his swimming colleagues have discovered that it is easy to be a big fish in a small pond, but Olympic Swimming is not a pond, it is an ocean populated with the world’s biggest fish. Let’s hope if they leave anything behind in London, it is their arrogance. We want to see our Olympians proudly competing and most of us consider an Olympic Silver or Bronze a world class effort and one to be proud of, not cry over.

As the Olympics draw to a close, the media is choosing to focus on the amounts of funding that are poured into Australian sport. There is no doubt that this is an important debate but it fails to take into account the feeling of pride and joy in following our Olympic athletes through the highs and the lows of their respective campaigns. Watching Anna Meares claim Olympic gold is one of my most memorable Olympic moments and one of the rare times I have found tears in my eyes watching a sporting event. What about the emergence of Australian sailing? Or Sally Pearson, our ‘Golden Girl’.

Perhaps it is to one of the classic texts of English Literature that we need to take heed of a lesson that is highly relevant to this debate. Charles Dickens, through the much loved Ebenezer Scrooge, taught us that the important things in life cannot be measured. Our collective joy at cheering our athletes on, sharing in their joys and tears cannot be accounted for in monetary terms. As we celebrate these Olympic Games and the many Australian success stories, let’s also ensure we shed this attitude of arrogance and negativity before Rio 2016.

Published by 14/8/12


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