OLYMPIC INSPIRATION

It is very difficult to avoid the Olympics at present, and despite being somebody who rarely watches sport I can fully understand the enthusiasm for celebrating the many excellent performances of competitors from around the world. Despite my previous post about corporate branding, I haven’t been blocked, so will risk another Olympic themed post. Following that post I have to say that I was pleased to note the appearance of a new sport of ‘back-pedalling’ as the public were told that still and video images taken within the venues could indeed be shared for personal and social use as the main concerns were, apparently, related to professional photographers who might seek to profit from any non-sanctioned images. Similarly I noticed reassurances being given that people attending venues should feel free to wear whatever they wish, provided that ‘it didn’t look as if they were being paid to wear it’. I have a strong suspicion that the moderated stance could well have been motivated by an acceptance that any attempt to rigidly police a more rigorous one would be virtually unworkable and counter-productive.

Once the anticipatory hype had been sidelined by the start of competitive spectacle the mood of most people, as portrayed by the media, seemed to get firmly behind the core ethos of ‘The Games’ – ‘FASTER, HIGHER, STRONGER’! This was clearly fuelled by the plethora of Team GB medallists that began to appear. I was very heartened to see a plea posted on FaceBook recently – encouraging the media to give greater prominence to Olympic champions, over other ‘celebrities’ as role models. In particular I would have no complaints if those ‘Z-listers’ who are ‘famous for being famous’, whose true accomplishments are virtually impossible to uncover featured far less prominently in the media.

In fact apparent mixed messages continue to circulate. Some of the principal corporate sponsors of the Olympics, are best know for their relatively unhealthy dietary products, burgers and carbonated soft drinks. With the BBC televising every single event, many people will be motivated to spend even more time sitting watching sporting performances rather than actively participating.

Always seeking to be topical, today’s BBC Radio Scotland weekday morning phone-in debate programme, ‘Call Kaye’, considered the potential motivational effect of Andy Murray’s individual Gold Medal, alongside a discussion about efforts to encourage school students to eat healthy meals by restricting access to fast food outlets in the vicinity of schools. This wasn’t the first time that the subject of healthy school meals has featured as a topic for discussion and it didn’t take long for somebody to suggest that the solution is simple, just get schools to stop students from leaving the school campus at lunchtime thereby compelling them to take healthy options in school canteens. This argument is flawed in just so many ways:

1/ any straightforward ban will never persuade teenagers to adopt the proffered ‘good for them’ option;

2/ aside from human rights issues about allegations of illegal detention during students’ own lunch breaks, schools simply do not have sufficient human resources to maintain statutory duty of care obligations should they actually insist students remain on campus during the lunch break – it certainly wouldn’t take long for parents to complain about lack of supervision – teaching staff are entitled to their lunch breaks;

3/ few schools actually have sufficient capacity to cater for all students during a lunch break; in particular newly built ones are not even designed to cater for the whole school roll being fed in one sitting;

4/ if students were to be prevented from leaving the campus during the school day, what could the school realistically do to prevent them bringing unhealthy options on-site with them in their bags? Would ‘food compliance’ checks be instigated where every bag would be searched on entry, with ‘offending’ items being confiscated for return at the end of the day – or to be stolen?

Education, not enforcement must be the answer, as banning will simply make the ‘forbidden fruit’ more appealing. For any real change, it is essential that students actually want to choose healthy options over unhealthy fast and convenience foods. This is perhaps one of the many ways in which positive and popular role models such as Mo Farrah, Jessica Ennis and Bradley Wiggins might help. If they were to become involved in ways that helped to show how important dietary choices are in achieving sporting success, perhaps we might begin to turn the tide.

Away from diet, future generations need fairly intensive and immediate post-Olympic support in the form of easy access to training and participation facilities in order to capitalise on any increased interest in the many different sports that are currently being highlighted by the comprehensive coverage of all events. Sadly, I fear that such wide-ranging access will not be forthcoming and much of the increased motivation to participate actively will be allowed to dwindle. The Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014 will provide a further opportunity to rally popular interest, will we be in a better position to capitalise on increased aspiration by then? Or will the ‘chattering classes’ still be seeking to politicise sporting achievements for their own self-interested ends, whilst the growing numbers of obese citizens with no ready access to a wide range of sporting facilities, remain anchored in their chairs in front of high definition TV screens watching others push themselves to achieve success?

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