I took some time this afternoon to watch the Gymnastic World Championships coverage on BBC2. What a treat of really quite sublime talent brought together in one concentrated effort to win.
It was the male team finals that I was lucky enough to catch, and as I sat and watched a number of things struck me. Firstly was the lack of any form of challenge from a British team in the finals, something one year out from London 2012 made acutely aware that there are still large areas within the sporting fraternity where Britain have little or no credible representation.
Another thing that I contemplated was the complexity of judging. Much of what I was looking at seemed to be just a blur of flick flacks, spins, jumps and massive tumbles. I frequently found myself baffled as a routine that seemed fluid and packed full of dynamic skills with good speed and little obvious mistakes ended up with a reward of less points than a routine with as glaring an error as a full from the high bar.
We don’t have to be told that there is a lot of skill in being a world class gymnast, and even more skill in being able to sit there and make sense of the whirl wind of individual sets of a complete routine. Judges are watching exactly what I am watching, at the same speed, with the similar restrictions of distance, angle and distraction, yet they are processing the performance based on each key components difficulty, presentation and fluidity in context of the competitors overall routine, and doing so in split seconds. Now that is a skill to admire.
There was once a time where if you were to talk about gymnastics on the world stage you would be talking about Russia or the USSR as it was known back then. Russia was a power house for producing some of the finest athletes on the gymnastics stage, but since the demise of the Communist state it seems that dominance has now fallen to another Communist state. China is the new power house of international gymnastics, and I had to ponder the merits of the Communist system in relation to its production of amazing athletes. In a society where state education is a fundamental importance as is the case in a communist regime, it seems that sporting programs are able to identify talent at an early age, and mechanisms are in place to nurture this talent to extraordinary levels.
While the whole concept of Communism is somewhat distasteful to the western world, I do wonder to myself if there are elements of the ethos of communism that do infact build a better world for its inhabitants. I mean coming back to my point about the lack of representation of British athletes; I tend to believe that ultimately one of the major factors that inhibits our nation is its lack of attention to sport at youth levels. Far too many schools have no form of sporting program, and those that do place little emphasis on excellence or development. Children are encouraged to take part because it’s necessary for health and curriculum.
Spotting and nurturing talent is left the likes of Simon Cowell or the Britain’s Got Talent team. Now that the Olympics have come to town, there is a sudden rewal of interest in supporting sport development through the country, but I did wonder what impact a television program focused on selecting, training and developing say a Football Team would have on society in the UK.
Imagine, SKY TV or ITV or the BBC offering the British public the opportunity to audition for a place in a team that would be put together, trained and mentored over say a three year period with the guarantee of a season in the Premiership Division of the FA Football League. Maybe a ridiculous dream to achieve, but when you consider that each year over 200,000 people audition for the X Factor, what would eight years of a sports styled reality show with realistically tangible rewards achieve – A decent National Squad? Now there is food for thought.
Its funny how something as simple as sitting watching a little sport on television can create some truly bizarre ideas, but also point the finger at some glaring failures by both the public and government of our country. Britain used to be the nation to beat, but generations of lack of support, inadequate funding, resources, facilities and inspiration have brought the UK to its knees. Instead we have allowed precious funds to be squandered on politician’s moats and parliamentary expenses, or BMW’s and iPhones for our Police Chiefs when a VW and a Sony Ericsson would do.
Sport is a great unifying medium for crossing divides, forgetting prejudice and building lasting relationships. It teaches us to perceiver, breeds a sense of fairness and instils in us a sense of achievement. There is nothing wrong with a desire to win, or a passion to be the best. These are the fundamental characteristics of a strong individual and are essential during our key developmental years. Sport gives us an ability to deal with adversity, communicate our frustrations and disappointments effectively, but possibly most importantly it breads a healthy nation both mentally and physically.
Speak to a large majority of British youth and they’ll tell you that long to be a celebrity. Nothing too unusual there, I think almost any child dreams of celebrity as they grow up, however I’m certain that you’ll find that the celebrity that a British youngster dreams of is that of the X Factor or some such similar TV program, where as you ask a typical South African youngster and they’ll tell you that they seek fame via a place playing for either the Springboks or Bafana Bafana.
Admittedly I accept that sport is not for everybody, but I believe that participation is just as important a developmental tool as giving non sporting options to children. The real world is not an easy place, and I cannot help but wonder if giving kids an opt out clause is not more detrimental in the long run?
Interesting questions when you stop to consider them. I don’t propose to have all the answers, and I am sure that I’ll get people suggesting that I haven’t considered all the facts. True, I am sure that there are factors to these questions that I haven’t considered, but as is always the case when I blog, I present my thoughts and then leave it open for other people to present their ideas, thoughts and arguments for consideration. So in the great scheme of things let me ask you this. Does the lack of a British Team participating on the international stage with consistently winning ways point to a larger problem in the development of the British youth, and if this is the case, what is the solution? Your thoughts and contribution is greatly appreciated.