Wednesday, 13 September 2006

The Olympic bandwagon

Absolutely NOT a sports fan (if you hadn't already guessed), my prime unpatriotic groans about the 2012 olympics are that they are: a) going to create havoc in London and jealousy in every other city in the UK; b) that huge amounts of public money is being chucked at a pipe dream; c) that sport will play an increased role on a world stage already saturated with the tedious stuff; d) that hosts of private finance initiatives and their top brass will retire to the Bahamas on the proceeds, having hugely over-charged a government apparently unable to get value for money from the private sector; and e) that funds will be diverted from real good causes and the arts. In the last year, the London Olympics has become a sexy hook for the widest possible variety of projects, schemes and organisations in the private, public and not for profit sectors. If they can just make a link, no matter how tentative, they might just cream off some of that lovely sloshing-about lolly. You can just hear the Chair or CEO coming in on a Monday morning, rubbing their hands together and shouting "olympics!", just like they shouted "Y2K" back in 1999; it makes them seem up to the minute, hot to trot, thinking outside the envelope or any other daft cliche you care to think of. Today however, I open my regular Involve newletter from the Sector Skills Development Agency to read that "The 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in London represent a real and significant opportunity to drive up skills not only in London, but nationally". Apparently, "The Department for Education and Skills is responsible for maximising the benefits of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in the field of education and skills, so that 2012 has a long-term impact on the lives of learners, particularly young people of the 2012 Olympic generation." Is it uncharitable of me to say that this is a load of old guff, and if it takes the Olympics to get government to do its core work, then we truly have our priorities completely twisted? The Olympics is not a once in a lifetime opportunity - what is once in a lifetime is every individual's opportunity to develop and thrive. It makes me incandescent that this is linked to something so peripheral (yet so high profile) as sport in the noughties. Olympic and paralympic sport is elitist by definition - the best competing with the best. It is not about access, or that old saw about taking part, but about winning. To dangle this vision in front of Jo and Joe public and suggesting it will specifically enhance their skills in any way is bonkers. Jo and Joe need great schooling and education, great skills development opportunities and a real, interesting life, not lived vicariously through feted sports celebs viewed on the box.
(Sept 2006)

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