The Man On The Radio (TMOTR) said that, years ago, lack of funds had meant the British Olympic effort was quite amateurish whereas now, thanks to Lottery funding, we can afford the best trainers, the bet “sports scientists” and the best equipment. Consequently we have one of the best medal counts after China and the U.S, countries which also throw money at sport.
I suspect that most countries have more sense than money these days and so can’t afford this sort of behaviour. However, once the world economy picks up, perhaps the competition for the best will increase? Perhaps the Germans will decide that they must “invest” limitless funds in their team? Maybe they will try and attract the best trainers from the British or Chinese? If this happens then Olympics sport will become very much like Premier League football with personnel changing teams solely for money.
Except the athletes, of course, they must be nationals of the country in whose team they compete. But even here there is wriggle room. The Daily Mail recently ran an article about “Plastic Brits” claiming that Ukrainian wrestler Olga Butkevych only received her UK passport a couple of months prior to the start of the 2012 Olympics. The Daily Mail has a reputation for xenophobia but, though they may overstate the case, some athletes do change nationality in order to get a place in Olympics teams. It was the Daily Mail who helped start this trend when they persuaded the father of South African runner Zola Budd to encourage her to apply for British citizenship in order to compete for Britain in the 1984 Olympics.
If we are to run National Olympic teams as if they are multi-national corporations then why not? Better still, let’s throw away these idiotic scruples about commercialism and let the sponsors fund Olympic teams directly? Coca Cola could do a deal with a small bankrupt country, such as Greece, to bail them out providing that the Greeks relax their immigration rules and allow citizenship for the world’s best athletes. The athletes would need to be paid higher salaries than other countries in order to overcome their heartfelt nationalistic fervour.
At a stroke we would have achieved the rebirth of the Greek Olympic tradition as well as digging them out of their current economic funk. Greece would leapfrog the UK to the top of the medal table of corporate nations which have allowed hyper-commercialism to displace democracy. Faust was small fry compared to this!