Friday, August 17, 2012

Getting our Priorities Right

The post mortems have begun. One paper calculated the investment cost per gold medal. Another ranked us on gold medals per capita. Another ranked on medals of any colour relative to previous Olympics decrying our torrid decline since Sydney 2000.
I love my sport. My Twitter handle includes the phrase "sport fanatic". I am the best athlete never to play the game, any game, at international level or otherwise (unless recreational jogging and moaning followed by intensive bouts of physio are added to the Rio Olympic program).
As an organisational psychologist and change consultant I woud like to think I was up with the latest on mindset and positive psychology. And I do agree that sporting success on the world stage is good for our national mood and can bring people together. So does a good sporting meet and building nice stadia. One year ago London was rioting, now London is rightfully proud and bonded in its success. Then again they have royalty so they are quite good at putting on a show.
However could I beg the Aussie powers that be, those who hold sway over our future spending on elite sport in this country not to be seduced too readily by the cries to ramp up spending on sport (unless it's grass roots and contributes positively to our fight against obesity and racial intolerance).
If we want to get collectively proud, how about spending on a more humane way of dealing with refugees and a more effective way dealing with people smugglers? Can we determine empirically the most efficacious ways to combat drug and alcohol abuse as they are so heavily implicated in crime and domestic violence respectively. Can we operate on public hospital patients quicker? Can we pay our good teachers more? Can we have the best equity outcomes on race, religion, gender of any country on earth and can we improve the human condition for our aboriginal population whose infant mortality rates and average life expectancy are still staggeringly inequitable and unconscionable.
There will never be enough money to do all those things superbly. But could I implore all of us to define success and national pride more broadly than the opportunity to stand in front of our television sets singing the national anthem at a medal ceremony even if we are celebrating excellence at the same time. This is not the only phenomenon with the capacity to give us goosebumps. This is not the only way for us to feel like proud Australians. 

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