Olympics a contest between athletes, not countries?

Phil and other commenters at Larvatus Prodeo bemoan the Medal Tally fixation of the media’s Olympic Games coverage. It doesn’t sit terribly well with Article 6 in Chapter 1 of the Olympic Charter, which states that “the Olympic Games are competitions between athletes in individual or team events and not between countries.”

I am sure the IOC will be its usual assertive self in ensuring the spirit of the Olympic Charter is not debauched by excessive nationalism or commercialism.

Update: I’ve just noticed the Sydney Morning Herald are so keen on medal tables, they’ve got an all-time medal table as well! (curious to see that a nation called Australia/New Zealand has won twelve medals over the years, and one called Australia/Great Britain which has won two. “Independent Olympic Particpants” have won three medals over the years as well.

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  1. Is there anywhere I can find out how much Australian public money gets wasted on the Olympics and other professional sport?

  2. Ah, but is it all wasted, Chris? Doesn’t having people being active ensure healthy lives, less taxpayers’ money being spent on hospital and other health expenditure, and even encourage teamwork and other social beneifts?

    I agree that we spend a fair chunk of money on the AIS and other athletic endeavours, but am wondering if it’s necessarily “wasted” as you suggest.

  3. I said professional sport. I have no issue with public money spent on participatory sport. Public money on AIS or Olympics or stadium does nothing for public health.

    Professional football is 30,000 people who need exercise sitting on their bums watching 26 people who don’t need exercise running around!

  4. I thought the Olympics were supposed to be about celebrating and encouraging personal endeavour and achievement –something that’s not always reflected in the amount of medals a person wins or even if they win one at all.

    For instance the Australian women’s gymnastics team performed brilliantly to get to the finals and finish in sixth place – our highest ever Olympic team finish – and they did it in the face of some pretty nasty injuries and setbacks They didn’t win a medal but they were awesome and personally I found their achievement much more inspiring than the usual swimming medal tally.

    I’d like to see a much more balanced distribution of funding across many more sports and a very much more balanced media coverage (not just at Olympics time) with less obsessive focus on winning medals and way more emphasis on encouraging young Australians to pursue their personal best.

  5. The question is, who puts the pressure on athletes/governments re medals, ie winning? We do!When Australia did very ‘badly’ in 1972? 76? the government of the day(Malcolm Fraser) ploughed money into sport and created the AIS in Canberra. We judge people’s performances on whether they win and how well they do it. It’s been so since the original olympics I suggest. The media reflects this and sadly, a lot of the time they are pretty insensitive while doing it! A few days ago Australia came 2nd in a swimming race-the Ch7 coverage congratulated the Aussie but ignored the winner of the other country. I’ve heard an interview with a Silver or Bronze commence with “not what you were hoping for” or “how disappointed are you getting ???”.Sad?

    I enjoy watching the Olympics and scream for the Aussies to win as well. I think the positive aspect of being a spectator is the encouragement it gives to others to take up a sport – either young or older – a good thing I feel. Yes, there’s a lot of money spent, but it will be used after the Games(unless it’s Olympic Park Sydney,where the Iemma govt plans to build a high speed race track-tear up trees etc and put down more concrete and tar). Rather the money spent on this than the military!

    I don’t think that people who participate in sport just do it for their health(although many asthmatics swim for health)? When you think of our population and the huge squad in Beijing, it’s a pretty big chunk of our population-contrast it with the US for example? I’d like to see swimming pools in state schools – the best form of exercise(I believe) with the least amount of effort, including kids with many disabilities.

    The ABC has been reporting athletes’ PB’s which is a positive aspect to their coverage.In fact, I have the TV on but the sound off(mostly) and the radio on ABC – much better! think they’re all champions just for getting there – medals or not, and they’re such a nice bunch of people too, which is a joy to see

  6. I’d like to see the AIS students treated like those who become doctors, teachers, etc .. with a proportion of their income paid back to the public purse. Nobody is against healthful activity that pays off in all sorts of ways, but why shuld I subsidise Grant Hackett or whoever to earn a fortune in endorsements and pay little of it back?

  7. On this I agree with Naomi in the main. The AIS is only one section of the Australian Sports Commission which receives about $200m annually from the federal budget. The bulk of that is allocated to national Sporting Bodies for development programs and more generally grass roots and local sport development and coaching etc. The AIS itself, and the elite sports program, and scholarships account for 692 scholarships holders and about $39 million.

    Equally the Australia Council provided $159 million in funding for their programs of artists and arts organisations working in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts, community partnerships, dance, literature, music, theatre, visual arts and multi-artform practices. Entirely appropriate to.

    $100 odd million goes out through screen australia for film – also entirely appropaite.

    Etc Etc – the list goes on. I object to millions being spent on business welfare to car makers etc, no doubt Tony and the protectionists at the DLP approve, but hey that’s democracy.

    One persons candy is another persons lemon. Lets not let our own biases reflect on decisoins made to refelct the sum of the community’s intersets vareid as they may be.

  8. Muzz:

    If the truth is known, professional and competitive athletes have a lot of sports related injuries, which must affect them very badly in later life. I once worked for an orthopaedic surgeon.

    I think the Olympics has become little more than a farce that benefits cheats. Since it was held in Beijing this time, I didn’t watch any of it on principle.

    My second son hurt his ankle training at the AIS a couple of years ago. It’s still not 100% and has definitely put a dampener on his interest in the triple jump.

    On the money side of things, I really abhor large sums of money being spent on these farcical competitions – also millions spent on fireworks for various occasions.

    In other countries, people are dying of starvation, exposure and dysentery, while we largely ignore their plight and continue to indulge in our excesses.

  9. Lorikeet: I once had a mother-in-law that bleated every time there were fireworks. That sort of wet blanket, “stifle any fun” attitude would go down well in the old USSR.

    To evaluate the worth of fireworks (ROI if you prefer), you’d need to divide the cost by the number of people being entertained, and compare the result with a few of life’s other indulgences (you can name your own I’m sure).

    Other than entertainment, there’s also the positive factor of warming the world up a bit – it’s certainly been a chilly winter of late (given the carbon “pollution” aware times in which we live).

  10. GZG:

    Scoff if you must, but if YOUR children were starving, I’m sure your attitude would change.

    Yes, it’s been chilly lately. I hoped you checked the cupboards for any spare blankets you could give to the homeless.

  11. Hmmm, I agree with what Floss wrote regarding spreading the funding around to other sports. Or at least increased funding for non-traditional Australian sports. I think Sydney proved that those sports can provide some surprises. I just recently took Taekwondo back up and in Sydney when we really invested in that sport we picked up two medals.

    Another thing we could do is support the athletes more. Many people who attend the AIS only get partial support which means many of them decide that they cant afford to presue an Olympic dream.

    Unfortunately due to the swimming the general public believe that Olympians are making huge dollars in sponsorship and therefore do not understand the sacrifices that these athletes make just to compete.

    As for the medal tally I have to admit I get very caught up in it. I see the Oylmpics as a way for Australia to step up on the world stage and I don’t like it when we under perform. I don’t want to see Australia slide back to our traditional place on the medal tally of 7-10 in the world.

    Beijing was disappointing because Australia really only picked up medals in those traditional sports. Sydney was great because Australia not only collected alot of medals but there was also alot of variety.

    So in other words Taekwondo gold in London for Australia YEAH!

    p.s. Our TKD team still did well though and I love them.

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