Monday, 18 August 2008

Sport and Tribalism

Sport almost always seems to lead to a degree of tribalism (although tribalism expressed on the field of play always has to be better than tribalism expressed on the field of war). As the medal count increases, so the media start to take ever more interest in what 'our' athletes are doing in Beijing – and the headlines grow more jingoistic.

It is entirely natural for those of us who feel ourselves to be first and foremost Welsh to feel a degree of pride in the successes of our compatriots; and is just as natural that those who consider themselves to be first and foremost British feel the same pride towards the whole of the GB team.

Like other members of Plaid, I wish that Wales were competing as a nation in its own right; that Welsh athletes could be competing under the Ddraig Goch rather than under the Union Jack. And I know that there are some athletes who would themselves prefer to be competing for Wales rather than GB; and of course, doing well for their country is something that most athletes take pride in.

But it seems to me that the primary motivation of most Olympians is that they want to be the very best in the world in their chosen sport. That is what they train and work for, over many years, so that they reach their peak at the Games which mark the pinnacle of most sports.

Whilst all the athletes benefit from backup and support from trainers, sponsors and the rest, success in most Olympic sports is still very much an individual achievement on the day itself. I find myself wondering whether there isn't far too much stress being placed on the medal table, which artifically compares so many countries of diverse sizes and resources. It tends to focus attention on the country rather than on the individual athletes, of all countries. It is the individual athletes who have given of their best; and that level of endeavour is surely worthy of celebration in its own right.

1 comment:

alanindyfed said...

Here we have it:
"Our Olympians' talent and dedication represent the very best of Britain and we look forward to another great week of British sporting success," he said.
(he being our very British PM).

The Olympics has become a display of prowess between nations, showing off who is the best. Sport is the vehicle of 'national' prestige. The only problem here is : Britain is not 'a nation'.