A while back I wrote about the Facebook Effect, which we all know and love, I suppose. According to Facebook all our friends have much more exciting, fulfilling and generally marvelous lives than us, and it’s sometimes hard to put all that marvelousness into context. Anyway, today we have been wondering about The Olympic Effect. A friend in England posted his opinion about the Winter Olympics in his usual diplomatic, thoughtful way; “Watch some toffy-nosed bint sliding downhill on a plank cheered on by all her Hooray-Yah mates?… No thanks!” And of course, in England, winter sports are, by and large, for those who can afford them; the ones who take a couple of skiing holidays every year, buy expensive equipment and send their children to train overseas. There’s little chance of getting some support from the Government and no chance of a serious training program through the school.
When we moved here, one of the things we really enjoyed getting used to was the accessibility of sports, equipment and facilities. How can we explain to someone back in the UK that skiing at Whistler is not really a big deal when it’s just a 2 hour drive up the road, and 2 of the children ski for free through the Government sponsored sports schemes? Ok, it’s still a big deal because it’s fabulous, beautiful and awesome, but we don’t really bother with Whistler anyway because its more expensive than the 3 ski resorts within 30 minutes of our back door and for novices like us, they’ll do just fine. When we were flying back from Heathrow after Christmas we were in the line-up behind the British Bobsled Team. I asked them if they were traveling to Whistler to compete or to train, and they said a bit of both. “Where do you train in England?” I asked. “I don’t remember hearing about a British sliding centre.” “There isn’t one,” said one of the athletes, a bit ruefully. “We mostly train on things like go-carts down a hill.”
So when our friend watches the Winter Olympics, he is likely to be watching well-heeled British athletes who have paid their way to the top of the profession, or are living and training overseas and competing for Team GB when the occasion arises. They are no less dedicated for all that, but it’s hard to really get behind someone competing in a sport you can’t afford to try. When we watch our Canadian Olympians we are cheering on people just like us and our children, who all have a chance to make it to the Olympics if they have the talent and the commitment.