Saturday, August 25, 2012

Spirit of the Game

Following two weeks of world class basketball (and other sport, so I’m told), the winners have been celebrated and the excuses have been made.

From a fan’s perspective, it was a disappointing Olympic performance. Not the Australian Opals standing on the third highest podium, or Australia finishing tenth overall on the medal tally, or the underperformance of so many athletes who had been expected to deliver.

No, the most disillusioning aspect of the entire XXX Olympiad was the behaviour of the most noted members of the Australian Olympic team. The entire country watched the swim team react to their failure to meet their own expectations. Not to mention the controversy involving a number of members, before the Olympics began. And to top off this class act, a member of the rowing team going on a post-race bender.

What action did the Australian Olympic Committee decide to take? They sent these athletes home early. You know, so they couldn’t march in the Closing Ceremony. Foot down. Meanwhile, the Brazilian Women’s Basketball team left one of their key players behind for disciplinary reasons, leaving them with a squad of eleven for the Games. St Kitts and Nevis sent their flag bearer home before he could compete in the men’s 100m for similar reasons.

I can’t say whether or not trying to spend time with your family is justified as a disciplinary reason, but I do respect the Olympic Committees for adhering to their principles. They are upholding the spirit of the Games.

The AOC however, is sending the message that as an athlete, there may be consequence to your actions, but nothing that will keep you from representing Australia, as long as you win a medal.

Perhaps the Australian Olympic team managed to inspire a generation. It is a shame that they were unable to inspire a sense of sportsmanship in that generation.

At the 1956 Australian National Championships, Olympic runner John Landy stopped to check on a fellow runner who had fallen during the race. At the 2012 London Olympics, a member of the Australian Opals landed a punch to the stomach of Tamika Catchings, of the US basketball team.

See how far we’ve come.

No, our tally count is not a disappointing performance. After all, what does a medal contribute to society but to inspire others? And if we managed to perform with integrity and sportsmanship, that’s pretty damn inspirational, in my eyes. But when all that we care to ‘inspire’ is the will to win at all costs, and kick dirt in the face of sportsmanship, that’s when we should all feel disappointed.

We have four years until Rio 2016. Four more years to prepare. I hope that we use these four years to instil a sense of sportsmanship in our next representative athletes. To teach them humility. To make them understand that wearing the green & gold doesn’t simply mean you’re the best athlete in the nation. It means you need to conduct yourself in a way that makes the rest of the country want to look at you and think, “I’m an Aussie too.”

That’s worth more than gold.

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't agree more. As the mother of sporting teenagers, i would like to see more athletes be appreciative of the position they are in and of the priveledges they are afforded, instead of seeing spoilt adults making excuses for bad behaviour and delivering ultimatums to the AOC (there was more than one).
    These people after all are not out there saving lives or curing cancer, and if i hear one more person say they are doing it for their country i will scream. They are ultimately out there to win a medal for themselves first, family second and country third.
    I want to see more sportsmanship from the professional athletes so my kids have good role models to emulate.