The British are an odd nation. They can reach get heights of great achievement while at the same time plummeting to depths of poor performance. The ability to do both things at the same time speaks to their priorities, as we can see from the Olympic Games now being held in London. Taken on any standards the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team has done very well. It is third in the medal count, it has the third number of gold medals of any nation, including nations that are much larger and much more prosperous that it. There is a simple reason for this excellent performance: money.
It is not that Britain is blessed with better athletes and cyclists and sailors than any other nation, it is just that we lavish a large amount of money on all Olympic sports where we conceive that we have a sliver of a chance to win that fairy gold at the games. Our eyes well up with tears when a performer upon who much state money has been spent, climbs the podium and sings the national anthem having won an event. It makes us feel good. We can all have a good old cry together.
We choose to spend our taxes on these ephemera. A moment’s worth of good feeling seems to make it all worthwhile. Never mind that our banks are crooked, our large corporations morally challenged, our politicians more concerned with re election than the common good and our economy in dire straits. As long as we can celebrate lots of those magic medal moments all will be well, all will be well.
For some reason – it could be laziness or it could be a simple inability to understand priorities – we are incapable as a nation of getting any decent manufacturing going, of balancing our economy in a way that secures employment for all or staying out of other people’s wars. We have proved incapable of getting a balanced energy policy, stuttering from one false panacea to another as we do our bit in accelerating global warming. Yet we can win more than our share of medals at the games.
It seems simple; pour money into the athletes so that they can concentrate to the exclusion of all else their events, hire the best coaches from around the world, spend hours analysing the rules and then designing a better bike helmet or a better bit of kit that will give our performers a tiny advantage, and even adopt some person from outside these shores who has talent as a British performer. Certainly it is important to do what the old soviets did and try to identify talent in athletics when the child is very young, and take the child and train the child to perform for the glory of the nations.
We eschew the spending of money to develop our own prosperous manufacturing, to create a farming environment where we can produce most of our own food or to create an energy environment where we can be less dependent on others for fuel. We cut back on research and development in science even in hospitals and care for the elderly, but there is always enough money to build an Olympic Park and train and hone British performers for the next Olympic Games.
Enjoy the games while they last. And if you are looking for work or trying to develop a business or contribute to a better nation in terms that do not involve the games, then simply understand that these things are not as important as being able to boast the Olympic talent of the British and those short moments when “God Save the Queen” is played as the flag runs up the flagpole.