The Olympics: how good are we?

Winning at olympic games, hand holding gold medals

Like the majority of Australians at the moment – I have caught a fever which mysteriously flares up once every four years.

This particular fever can be identified when the person exhibits the following symptoms over a two week period.

The person will sweat, cry, show signs of Tourette Syndrome with the occasional outburst of incoherent bad language, be tired often, and dark circles will appear under their eyes. Their moods – good or bad – will depend on not their own performance; but rather the performances of a team of elite Australian athletes who happen to be representing us all at the moment in Rio de Janeiro.

I am not a psychologist, so I certainly am not going to attempt to explain the connection between my demeanor and team of Australians 14,141 kilometers away in South America.

But I thought you may be interested in some rather fascinating details regarding Australia’s Olympic history:

  1. We are one of only two countries who have attended every games since 1896; the other country being Greece.
  2. Edwin Flack won our first medal at the 1896 games. Two gold medals in athletics (800 and 1500 meters) as well as a bronze (tennis doubles). He was also the only member of the team!
  3. We failed to win any gold at the Olympics on four separate Olympics; 1904, 1920, 1936, and 1976.
  4. We won more gold medals at the 2004 Athens games than we did at our own ‘home turf’ games in Sydney, 2000 (17 and 16 respectively).
  5. The record for most medals won at the Olympics by an Australian individual is nine – currently held by two athletes – Ian Thorpe and Liesel Jones.

While Australian Olympic trivia is endless (and I could fill pages with obscure facts) I do however find it very interesting that following our disappointing performances at both the Montreal games in 1976 (no gold) and at the 1980 Moscow games (only two gold), that the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) was established by our Australian Government at the time.

Back then the AIS had stated that they are, “…responsible and accountable for leading the delivery of Australia’s international sporting success.”

There is no doubt that, for me anyway, our success in the Olympics does make me feel good about myself as a proud Australian and I am sure the same would be applicable to a substantial number of people. So my take on the establishment of the AIS, and the money being spent to this day at the AIS (or the Australian Sports Commission) is largely done to make me feel good about myself and to boost the morale of our nation.

Whether this is right or wrong; I will let you be the judge

There is, however, very good evidence to support the success of the AIS. The increasing number of medals won at the Olympics following the 1980 games are one such example, and the increasing size of the teams which we send to the Olympic games (184 in Montreal compared to 422 in Rio).

If I do put my cynicism aside for a moment, the establishment of the AIS and the Olympics also do something else which I believe is just as important. It prompts a need in me to get off my bum and participate in an activity – or sport – ensuring the endorphins which flow through us all to be released and continue that euphoric feeling and delusion that I too could have been an elite athlete! (even if it is only in my own deluded mind).


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