Sporting excellence

Various areas of human creativity are said to come from some kind of human genius. Great individuals with tremendous aptitudes for music or art or sport are indeed great. But excellence ultimately derives from the collective and in many areas of life if you drill it down you find publicly funded, social, collective investment is key. A cultural commitment fosters individual talent not the other way round. While state funding can always be concentrated to create a small elite and private’investors’ can support some temporary initiatives to generate special areas of expertise in high profile sports, usually with an engine or a large crowd, there’s no escaping the fact that the most enjoyment, the most talent and many of the highest degrees of achievement emerge from publicly funded areas.

Where did really high-end gardening skills come from? Remember local authority parks departments and gardening apprenticeships? Where ultimately does most musical talent stem from? Remember the music teacher and the specialist musician giving extra lessons in school?

And what about sport? Schools sports departments resourced to give young people a try out in many different sports, youth services adding new sporting experiences in after school hours, even play service playgrounds and of course public playing areas. All of these social amenities created the culture from which sport for the able bodied and those with physical disabilities arose. And what is the state of these facilities today? Most have been soft targets in cuts, many have been sold off for profit. Many of Britain’s medals come in sports where no private capital really ever dared to venture. If there is to be a lasting legacy to the brilliance of our athletes and sportspeople over the last week then a systematic programme of public investment in school sports, a return of public playing fields and playgrounds and public funding for our sporting governing bodies and their coaches must occur.

Neoliberalism wants high profile individuals to promote brands, we want everyone to be able to explore and excel in the amazing physical capacities we have.

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