The Independent looks at Australia at the Olympics (for full page see illustration at end of article. Click and double click to enlarge.)
Selective gloating in London
Trying to find information about Australia and Australian performances at the Olympic Games in the English media is usually a needle in the haystack operation. Suddenly the Independent devotes nearly a whole page to Australia. Do you already smell a rat? Of course, it is because in their terms Australia is doing so badly in this competition that it is outperformed by New Zealand with three gold medals (Here is the news for Australia and it is all black!) and Yorkshire and which has four. So the selective gloating, of which this item is quite typical, is growing rapidly.
Australia, as of yesterday, had actually won more medals than Italy, two less than Germany and South Korea, nearly three times as many as New Zealand and only six less than France. It is just that there were only two gold among the 20 collected. Mind you the source of much of this wailing and gnashing of teeth is Australia itself, where John Coates has been trying to tell people that the problem is that not enough public money is spent on elite sports. This is the man who led the campaign to overturn David Crawfordâ€™s excellent report on Australian sports funding which argued that a far higher proportion of the sports budget should go to grassroots development and sport for the young.
The United Kingdom is not alone in its normal focus on its own athletes and there is no doubt that the media here are providing the majority of the people with what they wantâ€”stories about their own stars. Australian media does just the same when it covers events hosted there. This is particularly unfortunate however if you ever want to address why you are not doing as well as you expected in international competition. I have only run into one Australian photographer/journalist covering the football competition so far, though I know that several of Australiaâ€™s elite footballers and coaches, including Tom Sermanni and Melissa Barbieri are here to watch, to talk and to learn.
The success of the East Asian footballers, men and women, has been particularly enlightening. The Japanese men and women and the South Korean men are all in contention in their respective tournaments. Japanâ€™s women survived a second-half onslaught by France to reach the final where they will reprise their World Cup final against the United States. Today the men play Mexico for a place in the final, while South Korea only has to beat Brazil to join them. Not a small ask of course. All three teams are superbly coached, extremely well organised, they run for each other incessantly forming Barcelona triangles to play out of defence with aplomb. They defend from deep in their opponents half when they can. It was because the French women pushed the Japanese back into their own half, that they came so close to snatching a result in that game. They all are prepared to throw their bodies in the way of shots and tackle extremely cleanly. Their disciplinary records are exemplary. In most case they also give away some height and weight to opponents, though that gap is narrowing rapidly. There is more to learn from studying our neighbours I suspect than paying attention to baying and gloating from London or Auckland, or navel gazing in Australia.