CW Sports Blog
Correspondents including the Institute of Ideas’ Geoff Kidder and others blog on great sporting events from Beijing 2008 via South Africa 2012 to London 2012.
All fans of a sport are able to appreciate incredible athletic feats or truly classy displays of sportsmanship. Simply put, sports have a way of bringing people together. In a day in age when settling cultural differences is of utmost importance, turning more towards sports is a reasonably viable way to bring the world closer together.
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
In this Olympics, we saw much more ever than before of individual Chinese athletes. Their tears, sweat, heartbreak. It is not overstating it to say that Chinese athletes do the hardest things to please the whole country, but many in the country are never satisfied. People debated and argued with each other bitterly on the internet. Everyone is questioning and trying to find answers… including me.
I’m not naive enough to think everyone cares about Ennis and co winning six golds in one day, but in both a quantitative and qualitative sense the public feeling of joy has to be proof that, barring a disaster, the whole bid was worth it.
The symbolic importance of the lighting of the cauldron means that this is more than just the cherry on a cake of youth indulging – it is the icing, dusting, jam and chocolate too. Why is it so important to glorify a generation that is yet to do anything of significance?
Olympians have careers unlike any other. Not many people have a job in which everything that happens for four years can live and die with a single performance. To these people the Olympics are almost pathologically important, which ensures a personal commitment towards a single moment in time unlike any other.
The hostile reaction to the Dutch game plan is an indicator of how football has changed in the past 20 years. More and more physical aspects of the game are now penalised, such as the tackle from behind and slightly mistimed tackles, and so the Dutch approach which would have been the norm in a previous age is considered beyond the pale today.
Admiring the quality of play in the semi-final between Spain and Germany, I realise that barring an act of god, it will be many years and require a complete change of footballing culture before England can hope to produce 11 players who look this comfortable in possession of a football.
The best ice-breaker in the World Cup traveller’s arsenal is the cycle of naming teams or players in a slightly foreign accent untill both you and the local you are talking to come to an agreement about who exactly you will base your conversation on, and then exchanging sponteneous, barely informed judgements upon them through a combination of grunting and thumb-led indicators.
Everyone from Boris Johnson to Richard Caborn to Jeremy Clarkson and Uncle Tom Cobbley has had their say. Every issue from highly-paid players to the selling off of playing fields and the decline of competition in schools has been held up as the cause of England’s demise. Once again the England team is held up as a cause and solution of any social problem which you care to name.
Rather than blaming a myriad of extraneous factors, it would be better if the politicians kept out of it, and the relevant football authorities examined why these players play so well in the Premier League but not for France.
Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil (in flashes) have shown their quality, and the outstanding players so far have been the Argentine forward line and Diego Forlan of Uruguay. There is time for this pattern to change, and the Europeans can still get their act together, but the South Americans are definitely ahead at this stage.
In many ways, as one commentator said, this is a traditionally unconvincing England start to a tournament. The more astonishing thing was to hear ITV pundits agree that it was a good or very good England performance. True, some individual players played quite well, but it was never convincing as a whole, and a pale shadow of a team performance compared to Argentina earlier in the day.
The England players were confident and determined, their fielding inspired, the batting audacious and captain Paul Collingwood seems to have matured into a tactical genius. The spirit of this England side is so unlike the plucky losers for which this country is famous, and it is a joy to behold.
The Olymposceptics have been sheltering under a stone for the last ten days, but will now crawl back out into the light. In the coming months we will need to be vigilant to stand up for the sporting values we cherish and against those who would belittle the success of British or other athletes.