Tuesday 27 July 2010

A gold rush to unite us all

The Olympics are coming! The Olympics are coming!

With exactly two years to go, Britain got off to a great start with Gold for Mo Farah and Silver for Mark Thompson in the first major track final of the European Championships in Barcelona.

If the heart of the British track tradition is the great sporting rivalry of Coe v Ovett, it was great to see the strength of the sporting friendship between these world class competitors in a post-race interview which for once seemed to avoid futile cliches.

It may not quite be the appropriate monent, but we'd have to find a little bit of politics to get them onto the blog.

With those Union Jacks fluttering for Mo Farah and his "splendid Gold for Britain" (as the Daily Mail rightly notes), it seems we can all celebrate his achievement 17 years after the Somali immigrant arrived in Britain as a 10-year old.

No doubt Rod Liddle was cheering too. (Despite an unfortunate tendency to make sweeping generalisations - "Incidentally, many Somalis have come to Britain as immigrants recently, where they are widely admired for their strong work ethic, respect for the law and keen, piercing, intelligence" - Liddle will surely welcome the counter-example).

Britain has consistently done much better at the Olympics under centre-left governments - in 1908, 1948 and 2008!

With the Coalition in power, the British Olympic Association must know their political history, as they are talking down our 2012 prospects from a 4th placed finish to the top 6. If they don't cut the funding too much, perhaps they could still do better.

Curiously, the pattern holds good for most great British sporting moments, as I set out in a Comment is Free piece after the 2008 Games.

Wilson previously liked to remark that England had won the football World Cup in 1966 under Labour. Though the Conservatives governed Britain for most of the last century, the greatest British achievements in international sport have consistently taken place under centre-left governments. That is true of the Rugby World Cup of 2003 and the pioneering football European Cup victories of Celtic and Manchester United in 1967 and 1968. Now Beijing 2008 joins British success in the London Olympics of 1908 and 1948. (The landmark historic sporting achievements I can think of under Tory rule are Botham's Ashes of 1981, which was matched by the 2005 victory, and Roger Bannister's four-minute mile in 1954).

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