Did you get your money’s worth?
Axes are being sharpened, fingers are being pointed and the CSI-style dissection of the cadaver that is Australian sport has begun. Our Olympic success, or rather lack thereof, has been a constant hot topic around the water coolers & coffee pots of Australian workplaces. But as the debate rages regarding the medals we should have won, one gold we can certainly add to the leger is first place in snarky journalism.
The words ‘failure’, ‘disappointment’ and ‘under achievement’ have been ringing out ad nauseam depressing the masses faster than midnight pub curfews. It now appears that not only is the pen mightier than the sword, but the keyboard packs more brutal punch than a discus hurled 70 meters by a shirt-ripping German who fancies himself as a part-time hurdler.
This constant barrage of press negatively climaxed over the weekend when a team of 3 Fairfax journos (What price medals? SMH) pulled out their pocket calculators and worked out just how much each of our medals cost. They were throwing huge figures around and painting the taxpayer as some kind of trust-fund-chump that keeps bluffing off his stack at the poker table.
On first reading, figures such as $10 million+ per medal seemed as excessive as the Big Gulp I was slurping on at the time. But on closer examination of their argument, I’d have to say I stand against their entire premise and say I’ve got my money’s worth. Assuming the Australian population to be 22 million, the $310 million we’ve spent on our Olympic athletes between Beijing and London works out to be about $3.50 per Aussie per year.
Between all the international meets, world championships and now with the culmination of a captivating Olympics, I’ve got no qualms forking out the equivalent of a cup of coffee from my tax pile to our competitors in green and gold.
I certainly siphon far greater pride from some of the performances seen in London than I do from the toppled statue of a hunted dictator that came about partly due to my tax contribution to the $100 Billion spent on defense over the past 4 years.
But one cannot merely asses our sporting prowess and related expenditure without making a comparison with our rivals. So naturally, this economic masterpiece of an article compared us to Old Blighty and their spending.
There was no mention of the fact that with the Olympics being held slap bang in the middle of Britain, maybe they’d win a few extra medals due to home field advantage. This fact aside, the article stated that team GB’s haul “cost significantly less” coming in (at time of writing) at a miserly $7million per medal spent on their Olympic athletes over the past 4 years.
As the shock waves rung through me and I began to choke on my postmix mountain dew, it dawned on me that maybe these 3 Fairfax amigos hadn’t been so thorough with their calculations. Perhaps they had just taken the total cash spent between Olympics and the current currency exchange rates (with the AUD now at a near all time high against the GBP), completely ignoring the fact that in the last 4 years the British pound has been in the kind of slide that makes even Stuart Diver break a sweat.
Sure enough, the numbers were crunched using only the current exchange rate which paints the UK’s spending in a far more flattering light. I guess you could call it the silver lining to their cloud of economic capitulation.
If they had have calculated using the currency values from the year following the Beijing games, it would have made the GB medals even more expensive that the Australian ones. ‘What Price Medals?’ has been one of many articles whose chief objective was to take an Olympic sized dump on not only the Games themselves, but also Australia’s overall performance at them.
I’m surprised certain members of the press restrained themselves from accusing the Games organisers of reserving lane 1 of the athletics track for Boris Johnson had he chose to suit up at the last moment. Or that they haven’t complained that not enough athletic World records were being broken, despite every 2nd one being from 1988 which was the year the IOC stepped up their drug testing campaign. I even waited for the suggestion from the press that Leisel only swam at a decent rate of knots because someone told her the medals were edible.
None of these stories would have shocked me as others printed appeared to be in a vein of similar ridiculousness.
Now I’ll be the first to say our campaign should not come without any criticism at all. Steve Hooker looked like a guy who had let his twin brother, who had never even tried pole vaulting, compete in his place for a laugh. The Kookaburras let a couple of leads slip that were beyond laughable. And James Magnussen learnt the hard way that if you talk the talk, you best be able to swim the swim.
But there were others who, if you’ll excuse the pun, managed to turn the tide for Team Oz. Who’d have thought we’d ever hear the words “Thank bloody Christ for our sailors!” uttered from the Aussie working classes.
As the dust in London begins to settle, quite possibly in some kind of Boyle-inspired 5 ring formation, we look set to finish in the top 10 countries.
Hardly a catastrophe by any stretch of the Olympic dream.
It would not be a futile argument to suggest that with just a good slice of luck, the help of an alchemist or, if you believe the John Coates, about an extra hundred million bucks, we could have turned a few of those pesky silvers into gold and been pushing for top 5.
There’s no question in my mind that if the whole shebang cost me the price of a schooner, then that’s pretty great value for money. In fact if I ran into any of the Olympic team members, I’d happily buy them another round as with the treatment they’ve been given by the media, they’ll no doubt be looking to blow off some steam.