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olympic heroes return - The Villages

hutch0
Date: 2008-08-29 00:11
Subject: olympic heroes return
Security: Public
Location:the utility room in the sky
Mood:contemplativecontemplative
Music:porcupine tree
I've been wondering whether to mention this, as it's not wildly important compared with some of the other madness going on in the world right now, but something's been bothering me and, for what it's worth, I may as well get it off my chest.
The British Olympic team - `Team GB,' as it's been called over and over and over again these past couple of weeks - flew home on Monday. You might have heard we had a good Olympics - the best gold medal tally in a century, and the last time we did as well we got medals in sports where there weren't any teams from other countries. So, not so shabby.
The team flew back from Beijing on a 747 temporarily renamed `Pride,' its nose painted gold to signify all those golds we won. Which was fine by me, as a former county athlete (lapsed)I'm all for celebrating British excellence.
What did start to prickle the hairs at the back of my neck was reports that the medal winners were at the front of the plane and everyone else was towards the back.
The reason for this became apparent when the plane landed and the non-medal-winners debarked first from the rear exit. Then, after a pause, the medallists came down the steps, led by the multiple-golds and with the bronzes bringing up the rear, to great cheers and a photocall and all that media stuff.
Now, I'll be at the forefront of any group of people wanting to congratulate the winners. They put in extraordinary - often record-breaking - performances, and they fully deserve any and all the praise they get. And I absolutely understand the requirements of the media for a photocall and I can see why the whole thing was stage-managed the way it was.
But what left a slightly bad taste in my mouth was seeing the other athletes coming down the back stairs first, to relatively little acclaim. Many of them reached their finals after going through however many qualifying rounds, and quite a lot of them only failed to get a medal by one or two places - there were a lot of narrow fourth and fifth places - in fields that included the best athletes on earth.
So I wasn't wild about seeing the team segregated into the Olympic Heroes and...the rest. I got tired of hearing the phrase `Team GB' over the Olympic fortnight, and I thought the return to Britain made the phrase seem hypocritical. The sportsmen and women were a team while they were in Beijing, but somewhat less than a team when they got back.

In happier news, trackback is working again.
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RealThog: morans
User: realthog
Date: 2008-08-28 23:34 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:morans

"But what left a slightly bad taste in my mouth was seeing the other athletes coming down the back stairs first, to relatively little acclaim."

Yeah, that's absolutely pants, isn't it? What happened to the ancient British ethic of it being the taking-part that's important?

Someone, somewhere, needs a severe talking to about taste and ethics. Silly bastards.

What surprises me is that the medal winners went along with this nonsense. Back in the days when I did sports, at least half of them would've insisted on joining their team-mates, thereby screwing up the entire hierarchical exercise.

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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-08-28 23:43 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I think the ancient British ethic is now dead and buried. Unless of course we do disastrously badly, when it's resurrected. There's a perception now that doing well in your sport at the Olympics means that your sport will get increased funding from the government afterward. So the athletes weren't just competing for individual glory or for the glory of their country, they were doing it for a slice of the general sports money-pie. So the sports we did well at in Beijing - sailing, cycling, swimming - will almost certainly be guaranteed increased funding, whereas athletics, where we did poorly, may not.
I'm not sure we should blame the medal winners for going along with the theatre at Heathrow on Monday. They may not have had any choice. But I would have marched down the stairs with the rest of my team, and sod the politics and the PR.
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RealThog
User: realthog
Date: 2008-08-28 23:48 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

"But I would have marched down the stairs with the rest of my team, and sod the politics and the PR."

Ditto. It's what we did in my day.
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mylefteye
User: mylefteye
Date: 2008-08-29 08:41 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Separating the medal winners from those who were merely good enough to compete at the highest level is a pretty poor show indeed.
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calcinations
User: calcinations
Date: 2008-08-29 20:31 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
And we are all thatchers children- praise the winners and damn the losers...
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-08-29 21:45 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
It's a tough one, isn't it? The team left here with very few expectations from the media and the public - I remember the pledge to get forty medals in 2012 was roundly rubbished in the press - apart from polite British failure. So I can't blame them for wanting to splash their successes and put two fingers up to the naysayers. And as I said, I can see how the demands of the media could result in a circus like that. But it made me uncomfortable.
I agree with Mike that it was a poor show, although reading through the media commentators we're the only people who think that. It could have been handled better, maybe.
And I agree with Guthrie. There was something Thatcherite about it.
As I said, I take nothing at all away from the likes of Rebecca Adlington and Chris Hoy (or as it's more accurately pronounced, according to Fred MacAuley, `Chris, Hoy You!') and the other medal winners. But it does seem as though the Olympics has become like a reality show, where the winners Get Stuff and the ones who don't win are like the first couple of people voted out of the Big Brother house, whose names and faces nobody can remember after a couple of weeks.
I should point out that I'd have no objection to all of this if the team had been presented as a bunch of individuals all out to do the very best in their particular sports. But it was pounded into us, day after day, on the news, in the papers, on the radio, that this was Team GB. And when they came down those steps it wasn't Team GB any more.
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calcinations
User: calcinations
Date: 2008-08-29 22:34 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Yes, like a reality show. But also, I have this feeling its part of the widespread ghettoisation of Britain, or specialisation, ( caveat- I am not a sociologist) whereby hhmmm, sorry, traing of thought has derailed.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-08-29 22:39 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
It's a fair point; I've noticed for a long while that the people who bring home `medals' in any area (and that includes Amy Winehouse and Kate Moss) are basically injected into a world of fame and riches, while the ones who try hard, do well, but don't quite make the cut are ignored. And I include, without any rancour at all, science fiction in there.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-08-29 22:40 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Well, maybe some rancour. Eric Brown deserves to be mentioned as one of our very best science fiction writers more often. And he's not.
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calcinations
User: calcinations
Date: 2008-08-30 10:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Who? Ok, I'll add him to the list of books to have a look at.

Your concept of the successful getting into the world of the rich and powerful and famous versus the failures being ignored is definitely part of it. I was also trying to get across that although on the surface there is much UK wide cultural gubbins, from Dr Who to the Olympics, they all partake of the nature of entertainment- they are not embedded in peoples lives on a day to day basis. The Expert athletes are taken away from normality and trained hard in the secret ways of the masters that are beyond mortal ken. (Whereas in teh good old days they ran round the local cinder track like everyone else)
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-08-30 22:22 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
You won't regret checking Eric out. He writes an entirely different kind of fiction to Charlie, but to my mind he's just as good.

I agree with you about the cultural gubbins, and I agree that elite athletes are a race apart. But that's what you need to do if you want to compete on a world level. You have to get up at five in the morning to be in the pool, you have to be in the gym every day. Otherwise there's just no point in turning up. I was a pretty nifty discus thrower back in the day (city champion one year, silver medallist the next, utterly demolished at county level) by virtue of having long arms, fast feet and a good sense of balance, and I did my share of the cinder track thing, but to go any further I would have needed to do an entirely different level of training, and the moment I started to do weight training I knew it wasn't for me. I didn't have the commitment to separate myself from the world and go down that specialst training road. And thank god I didn't. Discus is hardly a sexy event.
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