Category Archives: sport

Celebrating the Elite

Elitism is a dirty word in the UK today.  Well, at least borderline, though far from universally agreed.  It is fashionable amongst our politically-correct chattering classes to sneer at anything associated with an ‘elite’ – real or imagined.  Fortunately the fanatical extremes of Mao’s China or the world’s theocracies have never prevailed here, but there are certainly people here who’ll think the worse of you for having been to an Ivy League university (you’re privileged, that’s unfair), or for preferring good music to whatever happens to be in “the charts” (you’re a snob).

Now we’ve just held a huge orgy of the ultra-elite, yet somehow that’s OK: most of those same chattering classes are celebrating it.  Dissidents who decline to celebrate may have their own bandwagons (the hype, the barefaced fraud over costs, the disruption to life), but the event’s inherent elitism isn’t one of them.  Somehow, physical prowess and sporting excellence are OK where intellectual prowess and academic excellence are deeply suspect.

Something for everyone: the true spirit of mass participation.

That is, until now.  It seems some killjoy has done a bit of digging, and found that the olympics are elitist after all.  Not for the obvious reasons, but because too many of our successful athletes come from privileged backgrounds.  Worst of all, they went to fee-paying private schools.  It seems olympic success, just like academic success, can be bought by parents for their offspring.  Whoops!

A moment’s thought should tell you that’s blindingly obvious: parents who pay high fees in preference to a free alternative expect something for it, and they’re not entirely mistaken.  Indeed, barriers to entry to many elite sports are inherently much higher than to elite universities: you don’t aspire to something unless you have at least the facilities to practice it!  Among my own cohort, elite universities were an aspiration for some, elite football for others, but olympic sports such as swimming/watersports, anything equestrian, or winter sports were simply unthinkable: they’re not for the likes of us!

Anyway, now that the Olympics are officially elitist, will we start sneering at them as a bastion of privilege, too?  I don’t think that’s likely, but it does look like a riposte for when the forces of Political Correctness want to interfere with our top universities on the grounds that they select on academic criteria.

More interesting would be if it can provoke a debate that’ll eventually highlight the total absurdity of an education policy that allows schools to select pupils (commonly at age 11) on a wide range of different criteria such as sporting or artistic prowess (along with some that are altogether more dubious), but at the same time explicitly forbids selection on academic merit!


Pollsters called me this morning.  Reputable ones (for what that’s worth): Ipsos Mori.  Just in case it’s feeding into anything that matters, I agreed to answer their questions.

She started by asking about walking: have I walked anywhere for at least five minutes in the past four weeks?  Good grief, how can you possibly not do that, unless you’re stuck in a wheelchair!  Thirty minutes?  Yes, of course.  How often?  Every day!  For the first time, a question where a different answer is at least thinkable.

Then she moved on to cycling (yes I do, though not every day).  Leisure or utility?  Well, tends to be leisure these days, since I work from home and shop on foot.  Any other sporting activities?  Yes, swimming.  Where?  Our local rivers.

Do I take part in any organised events – no.  Have I had or given any tuition – no.  Am I satisfied with facilities in my local area?  Hmmm, how can I not be satisfied when I have no expectations of them?  I choose to live in an area with open moorland, big hills and nice rivers precisely because it has those things!  Yeah OK I’m satisfied (with reservations about how that answer might be spun if Vested Interests are involved).

Further questions about cultural interests: have I visited a museum, gallery or exhibition in the past year (well, er, yes, a year is a long time to go without).  A library?  Probably not: I use the ‘net these days.  Theatre, Concerts, performance events?  Yes, well, I sing every week, and enjoy other people’s performances.

Finally some demographic questions about me, and she revealed this was a survey commissioned by Sport England.  OK, there’s the vested interest: someone wants to justify their own existence and jobs.  Dammit, no matter what the results, they’ll spin it: “all those people love sports, give us lots of money”, or “we need lots of money to get all those couch potatoes up and doing something”.  Hmmm …

A quick google reveals the survey is here, and is a big, multi-year event.  This Sport England isn’t someone reacting to the prospect of austerity: they’ve been engaged in self-justification since at least 2006, as revealed in their pages about it.

This quango sounds like a very good target for a 100% cut.

Sporting prowess

Ever since they announced the London Olympics, I’ve vaguely wished I had the artistic prowess to draw a simple cartoon.  It would’ve encapsulated the spirit of the event.  Specifically, a couple of enormously fat people in front of the telly, surrounded by discarded lager cans and pizza boxes.

I’m happy to see our local co-op has picked up on the same theme.  They’re offering a “World Cup Special“: buy a six-pack of lager, and get a free pizza.  Seems I’m not the only one to comprehend the true meaning of that branch of the entertainment industry known[1] as professional sport. 😉

On a related note, lots of retailers and service providers are offering high-value things “free if England win”.  I understand they’re backed by insurance, meaning some underwriters could stand to make huge losses if England were to win.  If they had had any fear of that happening, they might’ve been keen to slip a few millions to anyone with the power to ensure it doesn’t.

[1] Or, in the case of the Olympics, supposedly not.