Have we failed our athletes, or have they failed us?
Every four years the Olympics roll around. As Australians, it’s our birthright to win gold and show the world how good we are. Right?
Of course it is.
As Aussies, we play our part by grabbing the remote, filling the fridge full of branded products and ride on the coattails of our athletes, and cheering on the couch. As long as we win, that is.
That’s how it’s supposed to work. It’s just that someone forgot to tell our Aussie athletes this time around.
It’s bad enough we can’t recognise them without their yellow swimming caps, but we have to spoils of the pool with other nations such as Lithuania, South Africa and Hungary.
Yes we are a sports obsessed nation, I’m not complaining. In winter, we have a thriving Australian rules competition in the southern states, and up north we play rugby league and union. In summer you can find yourself caught up in the cricket, either in Twenty20, ODI or Test match form.
Can someone remind me again where these sports appear in the schedule? Oh that’s right they don’t.
We expect so much from our athletes, but we give them little or no support. When was the last time you watched a sport that has Olympic participation at a state or local level? I’ll put my hand up and say rarely.
I went along the cycling World championships in Melbourne last year, but probably wouldn’t think twice to support the sport as a spectator at a local level.
I don’t believe I am alone in this way of thinking. Plenty of us support our local football teams during the winter months, enjoy a beer over summer watching some cricket but only give the pommel horse, starting blocks and regattas attention every so often.
It’s also easy to forget that population wise we are a very small nation in comparison to the rest of the world. Last count we were sitting around 22 million people, our self proclaimed measuring stick United Kingdom has three times that amount.
So what about our talented youngsters out there? Any 16-year-old male with athletic ability in Australia seems to get swallowed up by the powerful football codes.
The promise of a sporting career with solid income attached makes the decision very attractive, but then when you think there are over 1000 positions available nationwide in comparison to very few places on an Olympic team, the option becomes more far more feasible.
Forget the fact you want to represent your country for very little financial reward. Andrew Demitriou and his merry men will throw money at you to play a sport that has no representative opportunities.
If you are an avid reader of Melbourne’s Herald-Sun you would think this was the only sport being played in the world, such is the support other sports receive in our nations ‘sporting capital’.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of all the football codes, but over the last few Olympics, other nations have caught up to us in the use of technology and sports science. After the first week of competition, our Australian men have picked up one silver and a bronze medal and I’m afraid the outlook doesn’t get much brighter.
We need to decide as a nation to either support those sporting organisations competing at the Olympic level, or severely lower our expectations. The rest of the World has not only caught up, but it seems that they have left us standing on the blocks.