OLYMPIC THOUGHTS… FROM JUDO TO THE BRITISH SOVIET ERA

JUDO – IPPON
I was taken to the Judo by my lovely brother last Friday. I have never been to Judo before and it was super. I learnt that an Ippon is the big deal for the Judo participant. This is where you throw the person so that they land on their back. You can lie on top of them for 30 seconds and that also works as well as knocking them over. That was as far as I got on the rules. I am a showman at heart and love all aspects of show business so I always look up and survey the rigging as well as what I’m seeing in front of me at a show. Sport is a show.  I counted around 400 moving lights in the rigging – for the Judo! You could easily have lit a rock show with that capability. I wonder if they’ll be sold off cheap after the gig? It was great to see a bit of the action and be part of the GB crowd.

A SOVIET SPORTS ERA IN BRITAIN
Anyway – we are third on the medal table and I find myself checking it to see how we are doing – how brilliant. It’s about the taking part but ‘Golds count’ big time in the medals ranking.

I am old enough to remember the Soviet era and East Germany as it was then. I grew up alongside Eastern Block athletes who were funded by the state. I skated in East Germany and crossed the Berlin Wall on a fog shrouded night with the guards totting their Kaliznakovs. Very James Bond. I used to ‘bond’ with East German and Russians, we would sit on hotel floors throughout the world and drink Russian vodka together. Entente cordial. We seemed to understand each other more as those evenings became early hours of the morning…good times.

Now if my Soviet friends won a World medal they got a flat and a car, a fur coat (Sable or Mink dependent on the quality of your medal). They also had access to elite shops and money to spend in them. These were not available to the general public. The sports stars were superstars in their home country as top film stars would be in the west. It made the country feel better to be winning in the word of sport against other nations. It was a feeling of national pride that percolated throughout society. Maybe this made the gruelling struggle on other fronts or the lack of western goods easier to bear. It was a strategy of the government of the day – Communism focused on Arts and Sport as a propaganda weapon externally and internally. It worked.

Here in Great Britain we are now doing the same as the Soviets did, we are investing billions in infrastructure and millions in athletes and their support systems, and it still works. Look where Russia is, Germany (including East of course now) is too? A reported £264.1 million invested in Elite Sport = £264,000,000 for this Olympics. Click twice if you’d like to see investment breakdown…

I love it that we invest in Sport. In my day I got a grant from the Sports Aid Foundation (which was fantastic help to us) and I lived in a bedsit. From bedsit to posh hotels and back was my world when I was ranked fifth in the World in Ice Dancing. Ha – I’d be earning slightly more than that these days. But that’s all fine – I don’t feel any envy the guys deserve to be well rewarded for their efforts and focusing and being Professional sportsmen and women is what it takes these days – as we can see. Mind you, having to focus and give your all to your chosen field is still the same – something will never change. The Lottery has made the biggest difference 60% of funding I read – 40% direct from taxpayers.

I do believe this is the correct strategy for us to have as a nation. It makes me/us feel better and have pride in who we are, instead of the doom and gloom and how bad things are we can get caught in. We need to invest in Arts to the same level – did you just swallow your Bourbon biscuit there David… Yes indeedy Arts is just as important as sport – gives us culture – self worth, depth of creativity and a uniqueness as a nation. Easy to say when you don’t have to find the money – but the Soviet model is what informs my words…it has and did work before. The Russians have privatised or let slip much of sport and arts and many of their top coaches went abroad to earn more. Maybe they will rethink after these games?

DITCH BRAND UK
I am adamant we should ditch UK – United Kingdom – as a brand. UK is confusing, inaccurate as a statement (we have been devolving Parliaments and responsibilities) and it takes away the power of our National Identity. We are BRITISH not UKens? We have a tremendous flag. It is a standout brand. Perhaps a tiny amendment to include a Northern Ireland recognition? A touch of tasteful green piping perhaps? Discuss? But the point is two brands are confusing for us as Citizens and for everyone else. DITCH UK EMBRACE GB EVERYWHERE…

MONEY WELL SPENT?
Is £12 billion spent on this Olympics well spent? £12,000,0000,000, see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-19144983 Did we say it would cost £2.5 bn on our original pitch? Oops, slightly off there then Seb? But what a job you’ve done – respect. But please say ‘sorry’ for Olympic ticket frustration of people trying to buy. What is it with politicians, they are coached never to say sorry or that there is a mistake. Some empathy would be great.

I love that ‘we’ve’ done it, (OK I’ve done nothing – that they’ve done it) that ‘we’- (as a nation) are delivering, that we are inspired, that we are winning it is brilliant.

But if you gave me £12 bn off the bat and said how would you spend it?  Anyway – let’s hope it boosts all our productivity and Britain’s exports so we can help people here at home and abroad who need a helping hand.

Undoubtedly the infrastructure investment and difference to Stratford and docklands around the Excel centre is awesome and bodes well for the future.

THOSE HORRIBLE ‘ALMOST’ FINISHES
I am loving seeing the commitment and efforts of ALL our athletes even those that don’t quite make it. I know how that feels. Finishing second, finishing fourth, finishing sixth, finishing eleventh are all horrible – almost – places. I did a sixth at the Olympics in Sarajevo and was devastated to be outside the top five which was our world ranking at the time.  It takes support, love and encouragement to build people back from that so that they can either get on with life taking it as an achievement or fight on to achieve more in their sport. On that front it’s lovely to see Princess Anne seeing her daughter win silver and the Equestrian Team. She gave me a lovely pep talk at a reception in Sarajevo which was a great help in the angst of ‘not having made the place I felt I should have.’ No doubt she will be doing the same again to someone at this Olympics. A superb lady.

Another few days to go…back to my own race and focus with a quick check on the medal table every now and then…Go Team GB, go…

Love N

 

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