What Great Britain has achieved at this year’s Olympic Games is simply unbelievable.
Firstly never before has a host nation from a previous Olympic games won more medals at the following Olympiad.
More amazing however, is that we came second.
To come second in the medals table to the United States, and beat China should be seen with amazement from both an individual and collective standpoint.
Those two aforementioned Nations have dominated the medal standings since 2000, and even in that Sydney games the second placed nation was Russia who although have ‘questionable’ means of winning medals were seen as Olympic top dogs then.
Britain in comparison came tenth, which doesn’t sound brilliant, but at the time was seen as a perfectly respectable finish for a country that, let’s be honest didn’t really take sports like track and field, shooting and table tennis all that seriously in comparison to proper English sports like cricket, rugby and especially football.
Although Olympians like Paula Radcliffe, Jonathan Davis and Denise Lewis, they didn’t receive the adulation that was garnered to David Beckham or Jonny Wilkinson.
A few weeks ago England lost a game of football to Iceland, a country who has around 300,000 people living on it, and people were disgusted about the fact that a nation with such a small demographic could beat England who had a selection pool of 53 million.
Meanwhile team GB as a nation has just beat a country with 1.36 billion people living in it; for every person living on Britain today there are 26 living in China.
In a sense beating China in the Olympic medal table is the same as England being beat by Iceland at the Euros, the figures may not be to the same scale but if you were a general leading an army into battle against an enemy who was 26 times the size, you would be pretty happy if you won that battle.
It shows what sometimes our football centric isle forgets, that Britain is actually decent at sport, very decent as a matter of fact, better than we ever have been.
The problem is though, that many Olympians in non marquee sports are simply forgotten after the games takes place.
Sure the stars from the big events such as Jessica Ennis-Hill and Andy Murray will always be remembered, but it’s often the little known sportspeople in the more obscure sports who are the backbone of any team in the medal table.
It’s a horrible way for a nation to treat some of its athletes.
Joe Clarke for instance, came out of nowhere to take a gold medal in Canoeing, a sportsman who achieved the pinnacle of his discipline after being seen as a rank outsider, he deserves the same praise as a certain football team who were 5000/1 to win the league title received.
There are many stories like that from this year’s games of British Olympians winning Gold in sports team GB didn’t even expect to win medals in, but what reaction will they receive when they get back?
The most likely answer is sadly a complimentary well done, a pat on the back, and worst of all a return to obscurity because the footy is back on again.
Not only is that shameful that we value people on the kind of money that Clark et al would only receive after a lottery win more than sportspeople who most of the time are playing for the love of the game whatever it is, but also undermines the future of sporting integrity.
Apathy in any walk of life instigates decline, and whilst the national lottery have worked miracles providing £280 million for athletes to compete, there are grave concerns about grassroots funding in sports such as swimming.
In a world of politically induced austerity how long will that last for if the nation for three years and 50 weeks remains apathetic to the greatest sporting event on earth.
It’s already being reported today that Nicola Sturgeon is planning a 20% cut to Sportscotland, denying many future Olympians the tools or means to train and potentially compete at the highest level.
We cannot afford to continue with Eurovision syndrome for the majority of British athletes who compete and expect to come second in the medal table every four years.
Because we should now expect that, we should be looking at challenging the USA for top spot in Tokyo, continue our dominance of cycling, start to dominate sports such as taekwondo and boxing, and make Inroads into popular sports like basketball.
Because whilst £280 million from the national lottery is great, the charity can only do so much on its own before a government programs funding, and it should.
Because we should expect that level of money and more for every games, what Britain achieved should be a springboard for British sport not team GB at their peak, and with regular increases like the one seen between 2008 and 2016 why can’t we be the nation he ends the USA’s near stranglehold of top spot?
That will never happen though if we do not treat more Olympians as household names, and maybe, just maybe start to let go of football which at international level continues to disappoint (except of you’re Welsh or Northern Irish that is).
If we don’t then all it will do is give a government that has made radical cuts in the past the impetus to deny many future athletes the right to compete or reduce funding because is ‘not in the public interest’; which will deny any chance of this scale of achievement ever happening