Friday, August 22, 2008

Hoy, Wait a Minute...

Belated congratulations to Chris Hoy, the Scottish/British/equallyscottishandbritish (delete according to personal preference so as to avoid offence) triple-gold medal winning Olympic hero.

It's a tenuous claim to fame, but I know his girlfriend. And her big sister. We used to play together in the Lothian Schools Strathspey and Reel Society. Much as I enjoyed cycling as a teenager, I have no hesitation in admitting I was considerably better at music than sport.

Mr Hoy, or Sir Chris as he may become shortly, should probably get used to people claiming to know him or generally wanting to get a piece of the action. All of a sudden, he's marketable. Want to sell bikes? Get Chris' agent on the phone. Energy drink? He's your man. Life assurance and pensions? Well, you can never start too early. Want to consolidate all your debts into one single easy monthly payment? Err, maybe he'll get back to you.

He's also got a bit of political marketability now. If he wants to campaign to keep the velodrome in Edinburgh open, then as far as I'm concerned, good luck to him. We're about to get a world-class one in Glasgow for the Commonwealth games, but his moral clout on this issue will never be stronger than it is now. He's quite right to make hay on this while the sun shines. Whether he's successful or not, I hope he encourages more than a few to take up cycling, whether as hobby or competitive sport.

By any measure, 'Team GB' has had a successful games to date. The haul of medals and incidences of pristine Union Flags being raised seems to have moistened more than a few eyes. However, have the games really shown, as the Torygraph's Iain Martin claimed today, 'fellow Britons proving what we can achieve when our national shoulder is put to the wheel'?

Really, Iain? Even in individual sports? And what of the contention that Alex Salmond will somehow have to take account of the London Olympics in 2012 as he plans an independence referendum? Does that mean all journalists exposing the shortcomings in 2012 financial management will now be denounced as traitors and fifth columnists? And what to make of the claim from the normally sensible government minster Tom Harris that "The fact that his bike was actually manufactured in Derby is a fine illustration of the benefits that can accrue to both nations through the Union"? Laugh? I almost had a Ken Bates moment :-)

Sorry to be a party pooper, but Usain Bolt wouldn't have run any faster if Jamaica was a state of the USA, any more than Michael Phelps would have swum less well had he been from downtown Ochos Rios. It's individual dedication and the support on offer which makes a champion. And, when it comes to team efforts, there's nothing to suggest that bigger always means better. Really, when it comes to succeeding at the Olympics, your passport is only of relevance in getting through customs. Everything else is about preparation, your physical state and above all, your mental state.

So, good for Chris Hoy. In fact, good for all the gold winners, wherever they come from. And, believe it or not, good for team GB. And if some want to claim that using a lot of energy to go round in circles repeatedly is somehow symbolic of progress for those who support the union, then as far as I'm concerned, they're more than welcome to the analogy :-)

5 comments:

Caron said...

It's not just about individual talent, though, is it? It's about access to decent training and support as well. I'm sure there are other talented young Scots who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Our challenge for the future is to ensure that as many as possible of them fulfil their potential. That means serious investment in sports facilities.

The inequalities are also there for normal people. Why can a whole family access sports facilities in Inverness for £20 per month, but in Edinburgh it would cost almost 4 times that?

Maybe Chris is right to want to keep the velodrome open, to widen the pool of potential olympic cyclists for the future.

Anonymous said...

A surprisingly poorly constructed argument from you, Richard. As the previous contributor points out, the traditional nationalist "small is beautiful" argument doesn't really wash in a sphere of life where it is obvious that larger units tend to do better (witness the countries above Team GB in the medals table).

If I were inclined towards nationalism I would simply write off this one - especially as most normal, sensible people keep sport and politics apart - and concentrate my arguments of those of greater substance. So Team GB gives an example of where the constituent parts of the UK are better together than apart? So what? it's hardly a deal-maker, is it?

Richard Thomson said...

It's not just about individual talent, though, is it? It's about access to decent training and support as well.

I agree.

Have to say, I always found Edinburgh Leisure's prices pretty reasonable, but then, I wasn't paying particular attention to the family prices when I used to frequent the gym at Portobello pool.

Richard Thomson said...

Anon,

A surprisingly poorly constructed argument from you, Richard.

I'll take that as a back-handed compliment :-)

As the previous contributor points out, the traditional nationalist "small is beautiful" argument doesn't really wash in a sphere of life where it is obvious that larger units tend to do better (witness the countries above Team GB in the medals table).

Maybe Caron can clarify, but I don't think that was necessarily the point she was making.

Your argument may or may not hold when it comes to team sports, but it certainly doesn't at the individual level. If our main measure of success is going to be the number of medals won by each team, then why not just go the whole hog and have an EU team to 'take on' the might of China and the US?

it's hardly a deal-maker, is it?

Indeed it isn't - whether you accept the case for a Team GB or not.

(If you're at all interested, I put my arguments for an Olympic 'team Scotland' in far more detail here: http://scotsandindependent.blogspot.com/2007/05/scottish-olympic-team.html)

Anonymous said...

why not just go the whole hog and have an EU team to 'take on' the might of China and the US?

A good idea. I'd support it.