Gold Medal in Negativity

The Rio Olympics have now closed and Great Britain sits proudly in second place in the medals table – its best result in modern times. Achieving more medals than the team achieved in London, Great Britain became the first nation ever to do better in the Games immediately following hosting than as hosts. But the pessimists are already vigorously downplaying the athletes’ achievements.

Growing up watching the Olympics on TV and doing athletics as my main sport as a child, I have always been blown away by the event – and not just the Athletics. Attending London 2012 is the top of the list of things I have done in my life ahead of safaris in Africa, walking the Great Wall of China and even flying on Concorde. It is the pinnacle of sport and sporting achievement. The level of commitment and effort, planning and sacrifice that competitors have to go through to even get to the Games is astonishing and so to watch all such athletes competing at this level is awe inspiring. However, the pessimists would have us believe that all this British success is down to money. The investment via the National Lottery has certainly enabled athletes to train at the level they need to in order to compete at this level but to put all that success down to money is hugely disrespectful to the efforts of the athletes. In the scheme of things the £350m paid into the British Olympic and Paralympic teams leading up to Rio is relatively small when compared to the resources at the disposal of United States, China, and Russia. I even heard a journalist on the radio stating that these athletes were only doing it for the money as they could do what they enjoyed while the Lottery paid for it. We have to get the money into perspective – Adam Peaty, Britains 100m breaststroke gold medallist received a ‘salary’ of £28,000 per year from the National Lottery in order to allow him to train full time. And that training is full time – 5 to 6 hours every day swimming, plus gym work, nutrition regime etc. It would also be interesting to see how many footballers would be prepared to play for £28,000 per year when they are the best in the world at their discipline. If money brought success then surely our highly paid national football team (none of whom get paid less that £28,000 per week!) would not have trouble working out how to beat Iceland team in the Euros and would not still be waiting for their second major trophy fifty years after their first.

Part of this negative attitude is Britain’s frustrating habit of being pessimistic about everything – assuming this will go wrong or that we cannot achieve. This attitude led to our lack of success in sport until recent years when the top sportsmen and sporting bodies in the UK (in certain sports) refused to accept such an attitude. In order to win we would need to have a strategy, vision and funding not just accept a plucky performance. When London hosted the Games in 2012 there were predictions of transport chaos, security nightmares etc. but they were the best organised Games in history and that is not by luck but by design. Britain is the fifth largest economy in the world for a reason – it has talented people, entrepreneurs willing to take risks, an attitude of never say die and a strong patriotism (all too often hidden). Unfortunately this can be hijacked, not least in the media, by the doom mongers and pessimists who continually talk down the nation and its people. If negativity was an Olympic sport, we would certainly win a gold medal, although we would probably then try and devalue that achievement.

Enjoy our Olympic success and be proud of what an amazing country we live in. To paraphrase Cecil Rhodes “to be a Britain is to win first prize in the lottery of life”

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