News
13th August 2012

In the following, published in the Courier Mail, I argue that like in education we should ban competition and winners and losers in the Olympics.

Given events over the first week of the Olympics, it’s clear that many are unhappy with how winners and losers are chosen and the system of awarding medals.  In some cases, like Australia’s James Magnussen who failed to win gold by 0.01 of a second, the argument is that if the results are so close then both first and second deserve gold.

One only needs to see the emotional distress and loss suffered by those who fail to win gold, such as Stephanie Rice, to realise the irreparable emotional and psychological damage caused by an unhealthy focus on coming first.

Add the suspicion that some contestants are taking enhancing performing drugs and there’s no doubt that the modern Olympics no longer embodies the ancient ideals on which the games should be based.

There are 204 countries involved in the London Olympics and the reality is that only a relatively few will win medals, with some having no chance of ever winning gold. Imposing an elitist, phalluscentric and hierarchical system of defining success relegates most countries to the dustbin of Olympic games history.

The Olympic games also reinforce social inequalities associated with Western style capitalism.  Illustrated by debates about the social composition of Team Great Britain, where 50% of medals in Beijing 2008 where won by athletes educated in private schools (even though they only represent 7% of the population), it’s clear that the way athletes are chosen reflects Britain’s class-based system.

What’s to be done?  Sociology academic at the University of All Shall be Winners, Professor Leveller, argues “Not all sportspeople have the same level of ability, motivation or genetic makeup.  So it is wrong to have winners and losers as not everyone has the same chance of success”.

Professor Leveller continues, “Sporting authorities should take the lead from educational reforms in the English speaking world that have radically redefined the work of schools”.

Success in schools is no longer measured solely by competitive, high-risk examinations.  In Australia, for example, teachers no longer rank students A to E, where E means fail, or from 1 to 10 as failing students is bad for their self-esteem.

Marking with red pens is forbidden and failure is replaced by descriptions like ‘deferred success’, ‘consolidating’ and ‘not yet achieved’.  In sports grounds, it’s also the case that scores are not recorded in games like soccer on the basis that all must feel valued by experiencing success.

In a draft briefing paper commissioned by those countries that have never won a gold medal, and undertaken by the No Winners in Sport Foundation, details are provided explaining what future Olympics might look like.

Gold, silver and bronze medals will no longer be available on the basis that all involved deserve to be valued.  Instead, a certificate of participation printed on recyclable, eco-friendly paper will be awarded to all participants.

Quotas will be implemented to ensure that merit and ability are no longer considered, instead victim-groups will be given priority to ensure a correct balance in terms of gender, ethnicity, class and sexuality.

The rules determining how games are played will also be radically redefined to ensure a less stressful and more celebratory ethos.  In the long jump, for example, a line will be set in the pit impossible for any jumper to reach.

Gradually the line will be moved closer to the jump point to ensure, eventually, that all contestants can experience success and a sense of mutual friendship.  Similar to horseracing, those contestants that outperform others in sporting trials will be handicapped to ensure they no longer have an advantage.

Initial responses to the No Winners in Sport draft paper are mixed.  Representatives from Australia’s elite sporting organisations argue that competition forces contestants to strive to do their best and teaches valuable traits like endurance, concentration and the need for disciplined training.

Those committed to a more new-age, holistic and socially just view of sport, on the other hand, drawing on the Gonski review of school funding, argue that like in education, all must be winners, social background should not determine success and there must be equity in sport.



 

 

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News
13th August 2012
In the following, published in the Courier Mail, I argue that like in education we should ban competition and winners and losers in the Olympics.Given events over the first week of the Olympics, i...

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