So John Coates thinks it is un-Australian not to increase funding by $100 million to "elite sports". Well, as John Howard would say, can't get much more Australian (greatest Australian who ever lived I think Mr Howard believed) than Donald Bradman, who famously practiced his cricket by batting with a cricket stump instead of a bat and bouncing the tennis ball off a corrugated iron water tank. At very little cost indeed. And Keith Miller, arguably a greater cricketer than Bradman, used to famously turn up to play cricket after a night on the town. Herb Elliot ran barefoot up sandhills. Marjorie Jackson trained, in second hand running shoes, on a country grass oval lit by car headlights . Footballers used to work all week as garbage collectors. And … well, you get the idea.
I think John Coates is so un-Australian that he doesn't understand Australians. He was going on about how the public would be disappointed if we didn't win everything, and, heaven forbid, slipped down the Olympic medal table to tenth, beaten, oh the shame, even by Britain. I don't reckon Australians really give a stuff about that, although whichever television network is showing the event, at enormous cost, will pretend that we do. And I don't think we are too impressed by the well known fact that you can, essentially, buy your medals – that the number of medals won is directly proportional to the money spent. Nor do I think we really like the idea that someone has won because they have had all the best equipment, best facilities, all the best coaching from overseas. Instead we like the idea of the battler from the bush who turns up with no running shoes and beats the rich kids. We really do, even now, in spite of all the propaganda from the Olympic Committee, support the underdogs. Remember the film Chariots of Fire? Change a few names, a few accents, and that could have been any rag tag bunch of Aussies turning up to take on the might of the Americans or East Germans. But that didn't mean we wanted to become Americans or East Germans, and that is where Mr Coates has got it wrong.
And then there are those other Ausssie battlers from the bush – the country hospitals with crumbling walls, the country schools ditto, the poor transport facilities, and, yes, indeed, the country sports ovals with no grass, and the pools with no water. There are so many things you could spend $100 million dollars a year on that didn't involve buying Olympic medals. Indeed, bearing in mind that this was just the EXTRA $100 million dollars that bitter tears were being shed over, how about we look at removing pretty much all the money from "elite sport" (a term itself an invention of people like Mr Coates in just the last few years, because elite sport of course must get elite money)?
Let's start a new program in the kind of country towns that produced Bradman and Jackson, let's try to develop elite hospitals, and elite schools, and elite railways, and elite ovals for local football clubs.
Say no to elite sport – elite sport is so un-Australian. Say hullo to battler sport.
You can't eat gold medals.
All David Horton's earlier writing is here.