As the Olympics draws to a close the political point scoring begins. The announcement was made to reverse the decision to stop UK sport funding directly from the exchequer. Instead the same funding that was given in the build up to the Beijing and London Olympics (fourfold that of Athens, the next highest funded games) will be maintained until the Rio Olympiad.
While Britain’s 60 plus medal haul at these games has given an undoubted feel good factor that is in line with trends of success that come with hosting the games, I find it worrying that the government feel it a matter of national importance that this success is sustained. As if it would be some kind of disaster should we win a mere ten gold medals in four years time, or even heaven forbid, the solitary gold that came in Atlanta 1996.
It is not so much that I have a particular opposition to the idea of elite athletes on publicly funded programmes, more that both major parties think the public have become hooked on the drug of success and cannot cope without it. Maybe they are right, maybe everyone has blurred the lines between real life and real sport and if that is the case we deserve nothing more than the utter misery we would surely feel when we discover that on the next occasion we may be more suited to the role of plucky finalists or American cannon fodder.
Besides, if the BBC and Lord Coe are right about this inspiration stuff coming from successful athletes then surely inspiration is a finite commodity that we are selfishly hogging. The Brazilians must be simply quaking in their flip-flops at the prospect of Britain keeping all the inspiration for ourselves! Perhaps in a ploy to profit from athletic success we could create a market whereby Brazil can bid to have us invest less in Olympic athletes, thus allowing them to snaffle up some more inspiration for their children.
To end on a slightly more serious note, I should hope that the Legacy of London 2012, if one must exist at all, not be tainted by the doomed task of coercing children to join the local hockey team. It is already plain to see that we live in a worryingly sports mad (myself included) country so if little Timmy would rather not play sport it definitely isn’t due to a lack of exposure. The sporting legacy should instead be similar to that of the 1966 World Cup but grander, a moment that created many happy memories without ‘meaning’ anything greater. When I’m grey and old I want my inspiration starved grandchildren to be green with envy that I was alive to see such a fun two weeks, not to see it as a frivolous waste of money that failed to meet a certain criteria.