THERE’S not much to admire about the Olympics these days what with drug cheats and host countries diving into debt with unfinished stadia.
But there is one bright spot. The Olympics offers a great opportunity to be jingoistic. It’s the ultimate sporting nationalism. And there’s nothing better for a Pom living in Australia for the last 30 odd years than to see the Brits head the Aussies on the medal table.
Team GB heads into the Rio Olympics with their traditional rivalry with Australia in the ascendancy. Britain’s 65 medals (29 gold) at London in 2012 gained them 4th place in the medal table compared with Australia’s 8th place with 37 medals (8 gold). And it was 4th place against Australia’s 6th place in the medal table at Beijing four years earlier.
But the 2000 Games in Sydney and the 2004 Games in Athens saw Australia triumphant with 4th place in both while GB could manage only 10th place in each.
During my time in Australia, I have been a staunch supporter of English sporting teams when they are competing against the Aussies. It has cost me a bit of money when betting with my Aussie mates on the cricket.
Strangely, a funny thing happened to this inbred jingoism when I was in England during the Beijing Olympics. The age old rivalry was pressed home as GB topped Australia in the medal table. The English media was crowing. My English friends were crowing. And contrary to the past quarter of a century, I found myself cheering on the Aussies.
Fortunately, as the Rio Games begin, I am back in Australia and I can revert to my true self by cheering on the Brits.
For the record, Britain has a long lead over Australia in the modern Olympics overall medal table since 1896. The tally is 780 medals (236 gold) from 27 Summer games compared with Australia’s total of 468 medals (139 gold) from 25 games. Compare that with the United States 2399 medals from 26 games and China’s 473 medals from 9 games.