Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Buying Olympic Gold

Throughout the cold war, Soviet bloc nations used sport as a proxy for economic success. With the connivance of the International Olympic Committee, they turned what used to be an amateur sport into the equivalent of a national defence force, hurling money and status at their athletes while the IOC turned the Games into a lavish field of the cloth of gold – at some poor taxpayer’s expense.
The British now copy this: After 1996
The subsidy to “elite” sport was increased tenfold, from £5m to £54m, while popular sports facilities were closing. Money was directed specifically at disciplines where individuals could win multiple medals rather than just one, away from field athletics to cycling and gymnastics. It worked. The medals tally at Sydney 2000 rose from 15 to 28.
£350 million has been spent on the Olympic and Paraolympic teams £4 million per gold medal.  That's what they cost.  Also, unstated a lot of the time, the UK sent the eighth biggest team to the olympics, 372 athletes.  Eighth of just over 200 teams.  You'd expect such a big team to come somewhere in the medal rankings.  The US sent over 500 athletes.  So, it's hardly surprising they top the tables.  As Jenkins says:
The nationalisation of sport – the hamfisted draping in the union jack after breasting the tape – so clearly diminishes the individual achievement.

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