Olympics: The 'Double-edged Sword'

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The Olympics are following us around, everywhere. British flags are attached to all vehicles including those fast powered chair mobiles that people use to run over your ankles in Tesco’s. Non-sporty people are watching sports they never knew existed, sporty people are torn between what to watch. This is great, there’s nothing wrong with supportive behaviour when it’s genuine, but the pundits are getting increasingly predictable. If words like “proud” “tradition” and “best efforts” were used any more, we’re likely to forget what they mean. It also seems as if the lack of gold medals is developing a tick in the camp, and we need to reassure ourselves that we are doing our best. There will be medals, because we are the host country. Here comes that British anxiety... why, every time the fact that we are the hosts comes up in conversation, does somebody quip that this is extra pressure for the athletes? Now, as an easily pessimistic nation with lack of belief in our sporting teams nowadays, it doesn't take an expert in sporting psychology to tell us this is shooting oneself in ones foot before you’ve even started.

The fact that we’ve got the Olympics here is exciting whilst also a mammoth task for all those involved, but banging on about how hosting the games is a ‘double-edged sword’ (thanks, Daily Telegraph reporter) isn’t doing anyone any favours. What do you expect an athlete to say after they’ve competed when you ask them “how are you finding the home support?” Do we want them to say how terrifying it is? No, we don’t. But we ask them anyway, and they show that practiced grin, because otherwise, they may be tempted to resort to violence after being asked that question for the millionth time. Not only is this behaviour of interviewers irritating; we’re still talking about the opening ceremony, focusing on empty seats and lack of Golds. Of course, we can’t ignore these facts, but reporters are digging around for the failures and filling our heads with the contagious idea of how we never quite win anything, and the Olympics being such a huge event means it will be no different. “Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way” sang Pink Floyd, and this may well be the case. But we are all well versed in this attitude, so it’s let’s start being realistic and celebrating the competition as it is, rather than how we want it to be.

The obsession with the medal table is an odd thing. To merge each individual athlete into a group and use it as a marker of how well a nation is doing seems to dilute what the individual has worked for. News bulletins usually begin with stating how many medals we’ve won, when actually, a lot of British athletes are over the moon to be competing in finals or at any stage of the competition. To focus on the actual support at the games, it is inspiring to see so many people cheering athletes of non-British nationality when relationships between Britain and other countries involved are not exactly of the hugging type. It makes a refreshing change to see an American and a New Zealander hug in a pool instead of the quietly forced smiles of politicians shaking hands. Wouldn’t it be sobering to see all the Presidents and Prime Ministers sitting in a line watching a sport together? Okay, maybe not.

To see people come together and support people from other nations is surely what we should be talking about more than our own anxieties. Conditional support is not a good lesson to teach the young generation facing the hard path we are leaving them. However, because people don’t go out as much with the economic climate as it is, or can’t commit to season tickets at the footy, means that other sports are becoming popular, and despite a few empty seats at the games we can return to the original point – sport is everywhere and bringing people together, even if it is via the TV.. The focus away from just football, in its current questionable status, breathes a little integrity into activities that are beneficial in more ways than simply fitness or success.

So to finish positively, I’ve never seen so many boys and girls with tennis rackets out on the streets (and Murray didn’t even win). Maybe the local pool will be filled with people timing their lengths, road bikes added to Birthday lists or rowing lessons bought for Christmas. But let’s hope Mr. Bean doesn’t get too serious about diving.

Sarah Smout

I have a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from UEA. When I'm not writing articles or poetry, I'm writing songs or cello-ing it up in my band. I tend to have the odd glass of rose when I write for creative purposes only. I bake good cakes, too.

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