Since Team GB started scaling the heights of the medals table I have been gripped by patriotic fervour; I am an armchair critic able to pontificate on the rules of various sports: keirin is a cycling event involving chasing a moped, that turn in the womens backstroke looked a bit poor, Usain Bolt normally stops trying a few yards short of the line. Each morning I have checked our national progress in the medal table.
The medal table is interesting: the US and China are riding high, a function of their large populations and the importance they attach to the games, although early in the games the US position was driven by its performance in the pool. The Russians were doing poorly to start with but only on the basis of gold medals – the table is ranked by number of golds won. Australia have done less well than recently but again a shortage of gold medals has emphasised this. Looking back, Great Britain has bobbed around 10th position in the table since 1928 with a disastrous 36th position in Atlanta 1996 and a 4th position in the most recent games in Beijing – this year we have finished 3rd!
Before the games had started I was something of a cynic: it’s an expensive exercise ~£10bn with dubious financial return. Companies like mine have scaled back activities during the Games, in part to avoid partners getting dragged into the predicted but perhaps not real “travel chaos” in London. Prior to the games it was predicted that non-Olympic tourism to London would be reduced. The law has been re-written to protect brands sponsoring the Olympics not just from other companies but from the public, in view of this the spectacle of people being criticised for selling their Olympic torches on ebay was rather ironic. The sailing is taking place near where I grew up, in Weymouth, and the locals find themselves mightily disrupted. It’s been distressing to see the British media anticipating gold medals for British athletes to the extent where a silver or gold is almost seen a failure: “why didn’t you get a gold?”, in China this function is carried out by the state.