Monday, 13 August 2012

How To Get A Level Playing Field?


The 30th Olympiad in modern times has - they say - come to an end. The cauldron has ceased burning and the Olympic flag has been handed over to Rio de Janeiro. Speeches have been made saying how great this Olympic event has been and of how the government is suddenly going to further support the development of new athletes, particularly by bringing about a greater interest in schools. 'Legacy' is the new buzz-word.

Fine - all that is good. But it is a terrible shame that the Thatcher government all those 30 years ago started the trend of selling off school playing fields - and all the governments since have followed suit. Even last week the government were to sign off the sale of another few dozen playing fields - have they now decided not to do that? The ways and means of governments are wonderful to behold.

But back to the London Olympics. The fact is, it's not yet over. The Paralympics is about to start. Are its participants regarded as a separate breed so that they are not to be included in the government's plans? Shouldn't the legacy speeches be made after the Paralympics to strike a chord of unity amongst everyone, not just those that happen to be still in the possession of all their limbs and faculties?

I have, however, a transcending perspective about the effect of the Games. Many of our athletes have been saying that they are ordinary people; if they can accomplish what they have, then everyone must be able to do it. These are very wise words - but not everyone wants to be a sports person. If this folk-wisdom were to be re-directed to cause everyone to believe that they can accomplish something great - not necessarily in sport - but in any field of life, then wouldn't we have the potential of a great civilisation? As Chris Boardman (a former cycling gold medallist) has said: "[Even] achieving a gold medal is not the summit of life ... it is not the end; happiness does not permanently exist in the winning of a medal."

But everyone - in our current form of society - won't accomplish something great. And the 'why?' is in the fact of competition itself. Those that win are glorified by the rest while those that cannot (or not properly helped) to keep up inevitably fall by the wayside and might become criminals or at least benefit claimants, groups of people who tend to get hounded when the economic going gets tough. I would suggest that until society shares its opportunities and winnings amongst all its brothers and sisters, so long as there remains a concept of 'haves' and 'have nots', then there will not be a level playing field of opportunity.

There ... now what was I saying about the sale of playing fields?
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