Gold for Australia in Olympic gloating
Australians love a winner. Sure we relish cutting down the tall poppies, but before we do that we love seeing said poppies grow. Of course, if there’s one thing Australians love more than winning, it’s gloating.
It’s something of which I myself am guilty of. Frequently.
Just last weekend, after the Australian women’s 4x100m freestyle relay took our first – and, at time of writing, only – gold, I spent the rest of the evening asking my British co-workers, “how many gold medals have you guys got?”
It’s not as though I’m the only Aussie who’s ever gloated at the expense of the British – it’s something of a national pastime Down Under. What may surprise, however, is that our gloating was rarely over how much better our athletes (once) were than those of the mother country.
No, what we enjoyed instead was gloating at how quickly the Brits cut down their own athletes who failed to live up to expectation.
It’s one thing to say Australians suffer from tall poppy syndrome, but it seemed the Brits suffered from short poppy syndrome.
Those who failed to raise themselves above the pack and shower themselves in glory didn’t deserve sympathy, they deserved an absolute pasting.
As recently as last week the Aussie papers were feeding the home crowd with stories of the infamous British tabloids carving up their failed gold medal chances.
“If a British team bombs, no one lets them know like their own press.” Read the lead-in to a story on the Sydney Morning Herald’s mobile site.
The story was about how the British cycling team, led by Mark Cavendish, had been panned by the British press after they failed to come anywhere near the podium in the men’s road race, an event they were expected to win.
Naturally, the British had been disappointed by the Manx Missile’s misfire. But the general level of goodwill by the Pom press toward their athletes who aren’t making the podium is immense.
Phrases like “great effort”, “couldn’t have tried any harder” and “we’re all so proud” are being relished upon British athletes coming fifth, sixth and seventh by the BBC’s commentators.
Meanwhile, SMH mobile ran a story directly above the one on the British press savaging their own which had a lead-in reading, “Aussie 4x100m relay team bomb and only finish fourth”.
Apparently if an Aussie team “bombs”, our own press are pretty quick to let them know about it.
We have always been gracious winners (except on a cricket pitch), which obviously makes it easier to gloat at bad losers.
But now that the shoe is on the other foot, are our true colours finally showing?
It wasn’t exactly in the Olympic spirit for Emily Seebohm to compare her silver medal to ninth place but her tears would probably have been worse the next day if she read the Aussie papers concerning her efforts.
No athlete has copped it worse than James Magnussen. His mouth may have written a cheque his body couldn’t cash but he missed gold by one 100th of a second.
Silver by literally the slimmest possible margin is still silver. But the level of scrutiny heaped upon athletes who produced two of our best results at this Olympics was embarrassing.
What was more embarrassing was how our media was so keen to heap it on Aussie athletes they’re even having a go at retired champions.
On the BBC, Ian Thorpe has proven himself an astute and articulate pundit on swimming, yet stories have been run over his choice of clothes and habit of starting sentences with the word, “look”. The sources used for these stories? Twitter.
Apparently a negative comment from a nobody on social media is worth reporting in a national newspaper these days. Well, it is if it’s a negative comment on an (ex)Aussie athlete.
The games of the XXXth Olympiad are looking like they’re going to be a pretty forgettable affair for our athletes. However, if we aren’t careful, they’re going to be a turning point for Australian sport.
With the emergence of so many other countries in the pool, the resurgence of the British in both cycling and rowing and our continuing lack of depth on the track, this could be the start of a dark age for Australia at the Olympics (or, as it’s referred to in sport, a rebuilding phase).
So how do we want this dark age to be reported? Are we going to simply follow the lead of those famed losers the British and tear our athletes apart for not winning gold?
Or are we going to do it the way we always have – cheering on the underdog, applauding effort and being proud of those who gave it a fair go.© AAP 2013