Is there a twelve year Olympic itch?
Can the Boomers beat Spain in 2012 London Olympics Basketball? Image: MARK RALSTON / AFP
According to folklore relationships tend to struggle after seven years, but what about host nations at the Olympic Games?
Millions of dollars are poured into sports programs in the build up to hosting the games. Athletes are generously funded, state of the art sporting facilities are built and countries start taking interest in sports they previously have never heard of.
But what happens after the 16 day party, when the world spotlight dims on the ‘former hosts of the games’. Host countries tend to dominate medal counts for a variety of reasons: athlete numbers are bolstered, crowd support is at a premium and the home team don’t need to travel.
Four years later the funding is still flowing, interest in the various Olympic sports is still high, and those heroes from the previous games are still performing at the peak of their powers.
Eight years later most of those who competed on home soil are mostly retired, those still competing have lost some of their sparkle, and the interest from parties funding athletes dreams has largely dried up.
So where does that bring us? 12 years ago Sydney hosted ‘the friendly games’. Australia was beamed into lounge rooms around the world, and Freeman, Thorpe, Hackett and O’Neil were household names.
12 years on and it’s fair to say we are struggling. As a nation, we maybe expect too much from our athletes at times, but the Australian public have acclimatised to us punching above our weight and matching it with the super powers of the world.
Many of our Sydney heroes have now retired, government funding has been slashed, and youngsters who grew up watching a home Olympics have moved onto different sports. Those athletes who dominated are now in the twilight of their careers, with many just focussed on making the team, rather than winning medals.
Don’t believe me about the 12 year itch? Look at the numbers.
I have started from 1988 (due to US/USSR boycotts in 1980 and 1984):
1988: South Korea
Gold Silver Bronze
Hosts 12 10 11
12 yrs on 8 10 10
Difference -4 0 -1
Hosts 13 7 2
12 yrs on 3 11 5
Difference -10 +4 +3
1996: United States
Gold Silver Bronze
Hosts 44 32 25
12 yrs on 36 38 36
Difference -8 +6 +9
You can see from these tables that although the minor medals increase, the quality of performance drops off significantly.
This doesn’t read well for the Australian team, and watching the first three days of action proves my theory. Hopefully I’m wrong, but it seems the British will dominate proceedings. Let’s just hope the 12 year itch is still around in 2024.
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