As I write this, Great Britain lies second in the table for medals for the Rio Olympics. This is an amazing achievement and there is no doubting the work, effort and personal sacrifice that the British Olympians have put in to get there. Twenty years ago, at the Atlanta Olympics (1996) we ranked thirty-six over all, with one gold, eight silver and eight bronze. Graeme Smith won a bronze for the men’s 1500 metres freestyle, the only medal won for any aquatic sports.
There is debate that Team GB have become state sponsored and that because the government is pouring money into supporting the athletes (it has been said that each medal earnt costs £5.5 million each), the athletes are not actually amateur, but indeed professional. To be an amateur, you cannot actually earn money from your chosen sport and this used to be true. It wasn’t uncommon to hold down a full time job, support a family and also train for the Olympics on top of this, but we are talking 20+ years ago and look where this got us in the medal tables. Now the likes of Tom Daley and Adam Peaty can make training for their chosen sport their career – they aren’t expected to get a “proper” job. The medals themselves open up a world of opportunity for the people who win them
and potential sponsors (think Speedeo and Adidas) love a high achieving sports person, as the common person will want to purchase any equipment deemed to be of gold standard by their chosen sporting hero. Then there are the follow on media careers that can be pursued once the athlete has retired (or during their sporting careers – Tom Daley and “Splash”).
So where does this leave the rest of us? Because there is more funding from the government, it does mean that sport can become an activity for all and not just for the well off. It doesn’t matter if your parents cannot afford to buy expensive equipment so that you can try a new sport; there are bodies out there who will help you out. These Olympic heroes give children a worthwhile goal to aspire to rather than being stuck in front of a mind-numbing computer all day long on social media. These people know what hard work is and they haven’t made their name by appearing on a fame hungry show and then made money from selling their lives to celebrity magazines such as Heat. There are two types of awarding bodies: the first one is solely interested in the sports that can win the golds, so British sports that aren’t producing the cream of the elite like basketball, aren’t receiving the funding to go the Olympics and thus suffering in the process. The second type of funding body is more interested in the grass roots sports and more likely to offer the more slightly obscure type of sport. The only worry is that if the sport is too obscure will it garner enough interest for it to be economically viable?
Of course, whilst the government is sponsoring our top athletes, that means the money isn’t being spent elsewhere. There are severe cuts being made to our NHS and education departments, that means that people with medical conditions are forced to go private or endure a long wait because there is no other option. I have experienced this first hand with my youngest child, having being referred to see the community pediatrician just before Christmas 2015 and having to wait until August (last week in fact) for the appointment and the nearest private option was London, which wasn’t viable in terms of distance. We have also had to pay privately for a dyslexia diagnosis, as Sam didn’t meet the criteria to see an educational psychologist via the state.
Everyone should have the opportunity to follow their dreams and to inspire others and the government should help with that. It shouldn’t though be to the detriment of those who need the basics in life to achieve their full potential.