Sunday, August 17, 2008

More on Nationalism and the Olympics.

In 1996 Britain faced a national humiliation when it only managed to win 1 gold medal at the 1996 summer Olympics. Prime Minister John Major immediately pledged £100 million of lottery money for investment in sport, to ensure such humiliation would never happen again.

12 years later and its clear that at least the lottery money that has been pouring into British cycling has paid off. Britain is now the dominant force in Olympic cycling, set to win the vast majority of cycling golds this year. This is amazing since cycling is a minority sport with hardly any following in Britain, in sharp contrast to continental European countries such as Italy, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark where the sport is a national passion. Yet these countries cyclists don't stand a chance against Britain's. Britain's success in cycling is therefore, in my opinion, evidence of the willingness of nations to invests in obscure sports to win Olympic gold medals.

This point is made well be Canadian columnist Jonathan Kay in this article from 11.08.2008. Let me quote this passage from Kay's article:

Even in the West, there is always a great wringing of hands if our Olympiads fail to deliver the expected haul of medals — with newspaper editors and columnists (including purported conservatives) invariably proposing Soviet-style sports programs to rectify matters four years hence, as if it somehow were a matter of national importance that our Pommel Horse Men were screwing up their dismounts.


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