Will Olympic effect improve the football scene?
Posted Saturday, August 18 2012 at 19:30
- Premier League season brings with it memories of cheating, racism
British people are dyed-in-the-wool pessimists (a government minister said if there was a gold medal for grumbling, Great Britain would win it every time), so the nation can scarcely believe that Team GB placed third best in the just-ended Olympic games.
The truth is its athletes ran faster, jumped higher, shot straighter, pedalled swifter, rowed stronger and punched harder than most of their competitors, and in doing so, surpassed anything they themselves achieved in the past.
Not only that, but as hosts, the London organisers built the stadia on time and under budget, staged magnificent opening and closing ceremonies, suffered no security failures or public transport breakdowns, garnered support from all round the country and produced thousands of unpaid games volunteers who joked and smiled throughout the Olympiad’s 17 days.
If there were early problems with ticketing arrangements and staffing numbers, these were quickly sorted out – as were the one hundred or so ticket touts arrested for illegal selling. What, you may wonder, happened to the great British tradition of “muddling through?”
Tabloid newspapers, eager to sniff out bad-news stories before the games began, fell over themselves afterwards to point out that the athletic and organisational successes were achieved by a nation standing just 22nd in the world for national population.
With 59 million citizens, Great Britain came behind only the USA (298 million) and China (1.3 billion) and ahead of countries such as Russia (143 million), Germany (82 million) and France (65 million).
Inevitably, questions were raised about the composition of the team known as “Great Britain and Northern Ireland,” made up of competitors from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. How come all four elements comprise a single team for the Olympics but they play as individual nations in, say, the World Cup of football?
Scotland plans to hold a referendum on the question of leaving the United Kingdom in 2014 and Alex Salmond, First Minister and leader of the Scottish National Party, urged Scots to voice particular support for the “Scolympians” i.e. Scottish members of Team GB, who won 13 of the total 65 medals.
But his suggestion received a cool reception from the likes of Sir Chris Hoy, most honoured of all GB’s medal winners, who pointed out that he was Scottish and British at the same time and proud of it.
Scotland’s Andy Murray, who won the gold medal for tennis, responded by wrapping himself in the Union flag.
The fact is that whether Brits compete as a single nation or as individual components, nobody really benefits.
In football, England may regret losing the services of talented players such as Ryan Giggs and Gareth Bale (Wales) or Dennis Law and Kenny Dalglish (Scotland), but the number of non-English players likely to make the English team is so small their loss would be highly unlikely to affect the result.
As for competing as individual nations, even the most rabid nationalists know that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would not win the World Cup in a million years.
Inevitably, individual Olympians remain in the memory – Nicola Adams, the black girl boxer from Britain with the killer smile, sparky Mo Farah (5,000m/10,000m gold), and Uasin Bolt, the Jamaican super-hero, fastest man on earth.
The downside was that Bolt’s performances overshadowed that of Kenya’s 800m winner, David Rudisha, on the same day.
In the view of experts, Rudisha’s race was the most perfect track event of the entire meet. Interviews suggested he is a nice guy, too.
And so from the joy, honesty, dedication and sportsmanship of the Olympics to … oh dear, football again!
The Premier League’s new season started on Saturday, bringing with it memories of the cheating, abuse, racism, court trials and Twitter rows which regularly besmirch the money-drenched national game.
Writing in The Independent newspaper, columnist James Lawton said: “As football kicks off, it provokes in many a weary resignation if not a degree of revulsion. If the game here in Britain has a dominant motivation, it is the pursuit of unbridled wealth and the barest understanding of the responsibilities it might bring.”