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It's the winning, not the taking part that counts

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Mihir Bose | 14:22 UK time, Saturday, 16 August 2008

Great champions always speak a language that sets them apart from the rest.

Late on Friday night when I spoke to Sir Steve Redgrave about this weekend's sporting bonanza and how Britain might fare, he made it clear that what matters to him was winning gold medals.

The total medals haul did not concern him, he would rate British performances on the basis of how many golds were won.

And I am beginning to think that the Chinese are learning that in competitive sport anything less than winning gold is just not good enough.

On Monday when Abhinav Bindra became the first Indian to win an individual gold at the Olympics, China's Zhu, who was defending his gold, burst into tears. He had won silver but as he put it, "I don't know what's going on. My mind went blank."

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This is not the first time a Chinese gold medal hope has broken down in this way. It happened on the first day of the competition when the Chinese shooter, Du Li, failed to win and was inconsolable. China had invested a lot of emotional capital in her becoming the first gold medalist of these Games.

Many have seen this as confirmation the enormous pressure put on the Chinese athletes at these Games. They have to succeed, otherwise, to use the old communist phrase, they are consigned to the dustbin of history.

The subtext of this explanation for weeping, is that it proves that the Chinese are different. Their regime is such they supposedly put their sportsmen and women under intolerable pressure, something, of course, we in the West would never do, or so it is believed.

And, of course, when they fail they cannot cope with it.

But is it not possible that the tears prove the exact opposite? That the Chinese are becoming more like us, acquiring the winning mentality that we in the West value so highly. Could not the tears represent the tears of athletes who believe that winning is everything, attitudes sportsmen and women from countries like America and Australia are said to have in spades and which explain their success in world sports.

The Australian belief that all that matters is winning is well known.

I shall always cherish the put-down an Australian supporter gave to an Indian cricket fan just after the 2003 Cricket World Cup final in Johannesburg.

The Australians had smashed the Indians that day but the Indian supporter took consolation from the fact that India had finished as runners up.

The Australian supporter turned round and told the Indian with a contempt in his voice that I shall never forget, "Mate, you know what a runner up is? It means you are the first loser."

Now you may think this is the exact antitheses of the Olympic spirit. Surely it is all about competing , not winning?

Don't you believe it.

Olympic winners like Michael Phelps want to win come what may. I am not saying they will cheat to win, but they see victory as defining their Olympic moment. Just taking part does not count And, of course, that winning mentality is crucial to success.

At the highest level of sport the difference in ability between a gold medalist and a silver, or a bronze is very rarely that great. But a belief that victory is everything can often separate the good, even the very good, from the great.

In my experience Indians, who consistently under-achieve in sports, do not have such a belief. They often console themselves by taking comfort in a heroic defeat when a true champion would be railing against it and asking why was the defeat not turned into victory.

The British, too, have in the past tended to suffer from that; glorifying defeat rather then questioning it.

If I read the Chinese tears right then this country, which so admires America, is trying to acquire the American belief in winning.
And as if to demonstrate this, five days after her initial tears Du was again in tears but these were tears of joy as she won a women's 50m rifle 3 position gold.

Her earlier tears were, she said, a spur to her success.

Chinese attitudes may not be the only ones changing.

Rebecca Adlington shows off her gold medals

Rebecca Adlington could easily have been satisfied with one gold but was clearly not. For good measure she smashed the world record in winning the second. There can be little doubt she has that winning attitude that all great champions have.

The extent of the success of the British team in these Olympics will show much of this Adlington effect has spread to the other British competitors. And how much of that old attitude that a defeat can be dressed up as heroic, and somehow compensate for not winning, has finally disappeared.

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  • 1. At 5:11pm on 16 Aug 2008, TheDuffManUK wrote:

    spot on

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  • 2. At 5:31pm on 16 Aug 2008, Ryan86 wrote:

    I sway both ways with this one. I don't follow most of the sports for the 4 years between Olympics and we sometimes hear about medal chances in certain events that never materialise. However at the same time, whilst say Sotherton may have been a medal hope, we have to accept that she came 5th and that it's not completely implausible that they are number of athletes around the world that are better than her.

    I think it's all well to use Becky as a case in point as she's proven she's one of the worlds best, if not best female freestylers. However, we're not going to be the best in the world at everything and sometimes we have to accept that we'll end up with silver and bronze at some point. Of course, this should be a platform to aim for gold, but take our cycling girls, I don't feel Cooke was a winner and Pooley a loser, both were winners.

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  • 3. At 5:38pm on 16 Aug 2008, G_K___ wrote:

    Yes, I think you're right.

    And it is no coincidence that the rise of this depressing win-at-all-costs attitude has coincided with the meteroric rise of drugtaking in sport.

    Those people who think that nothing in life is important but winning are exactly the same type of people who think nothing of taking drugs to achieve that victory. Morality takes second place - or more usually twenty-second place, if it crops up on their radar at all.

    Our society should be lauding real heroes - people who sacrifice their own interests for the good of others. Not self-centred, self-important sportspeople - who, along with the drug-cheats, typify this country's Me-Me-Me culture.

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  • 4. At 5:41pm on 16 Aug 2008, Wishfairness4all wrote:

    What you needed to add is also the fact that the British - although this is not a new trait - are masters in sneering and contempt for others, especially when they're winning. The comment last weekend after the women's race are an example in kind when the BBC commentator (refering to the Italians) spoke the immortal words: "I don't know what they're celebrating about - Cooke won...!"

    Whilst it is correct that winning at the Olympics is what counts it doesn't mean one has to become unsporting and stuck-up. Remember, the TRUE champion is magnamanious in victory and gracious in defeat - and that's very often missing in Team GB.

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  • 5. At 5:44pm on 16 Aug 2008, DaveC wrote:

    #2 you are right, of course we have to accept that there can only be one "best" at anything, and that isn't always (or maybe even often) going to be us.

    However, the issue is not about being the best necessarily, but taking the view that losing doesn't matter so much and it is just great to be taking part.

    If I hear one more British athlete state that the experience of being here is great preparation for 2012 I will scream. The desire to win can stir you to perform way beyond what your raw talent and hard work alone will, and by taking the view that this is just a "great experience" chances are you will not get anywhere near a medal.

    Stephen Burke was sent to these games for the experience in advance of 2012, but he was surrounded by British athletes (cyclists) for whom winning is definitely everything and he pulled out some amazing performances to bag an unexpected bronze medal.

    No matter how much you understand that you are only 10th best in the world (or whatever) going out on the track, pool, whatever and finishing that low should hurt, should be upsetting and should make you more determined to come back stronger and better next time.

    A smile and a "great to be here" just doesn't cut it.

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  • 6. At 6:10pm on 16 Aug 2008, gflvern wrote:

    In the words of Ron Dennis (Mclaren F1) - "Show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser"

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  • 7. At 6:13pm on 16 Aug 2008, Chris_Page wrote:

    To say that only Gold counts is to devalue the efforts of those who give everything and achieve Silver or Bronze. You can't win all the time.

    If only Gold mattered, there would be no Silver or Bronze. And the mark of a true winner is as much about how you handle defeat as it is about handling winning. Give me a humble Silver or Bronze medallist over a sneering, gloating Gold medallist ANY day.

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  • 8. At 6:19pm on 16 Aug 2008, batdude_uk123 wrote:

    "At the highest level of sport the difference in ability between a gold medalist and a silver, or a bronze is very rarely that great."

    I don't think that applies to the mens 100m dash though does it?
    The gold medalist was far superier to the rest of the field.

    As was Rebecca Adlington in the 800m swimming event.

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  • 9. At 6:20pm on 16 Aug 2008, rgh1066 wrote:

    Bose seems to be celebrating the Aussie supporter's contemptuous comment for the Indian cricket fan, rather than treating it with the disdain it deserves. There are plenty of examples of people thinking they are superior pouring scorn on the efforts of those who have finished behind first place - the famous and fatuous comments of Vince Lombard come to mind, but most well-adjusted people see these for what they are. The Olympic spirit famously celebrated those who participate, not merely those who win. It's nothing to do with being satisfied with mediocrity; it's about celebrating participation in sport. Contrary to what is being posted on this board, the british are among the most magnanimous in world sport. Living in Mexico and having to suffer US television coverage of this Olympiad, I can assure you that this particular continent could learn a thing or two from that.

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  • 10. At 6:46pm on 16 Aug 2008, SezWho wrote:

    In Britain we're very quick to criticise athletes (and others) for being arrogant if they describe themselves in overly positive terms. I mean heaven help the British sports(wo)man who makes the mistake of saying "I'm the best" or something even remotely similar. As such is it any wonder that so many of them make bland public statements about the joys of "taking part"?

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  • 11. At 6:54pm on 16 Aug 2008, SezWho wrote:

    Incidentally I wholeheartedly agree with #9

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  • 12. At 7:01pm on 16 Aug 2008, Crowperson wrote:

    The Chinese I suspect are put under pressure to win via coercion rather than encouragement. In a society such as theirs where political concerns are riding high on these games, I suspect that behind the scenes there are sanctions or even punishments for not succeeding. This is a "me-me-me" attitude, if only because they are probably dumped on from on high if they lose. Drug-taking is nothing new - look at East Germany, another dictatorship which invested too much in its athletes' success.

    You can also tell that they are slowing down now that the events are races rather than exhibitions of individual prowess. They have done well in traditional Asian demonstration sports, including wins in archery over Korea and gymnastics over the rest of the world, but the media is just too slavishly kissing Chinese boots to realise that actually they are not now doing as well that events which need them to keep an eye on their opponents and respond and think on their feet - never a hallmark of totalitarian Asian societies - are taking over.

    I haven't seen any losers from the free West cry at defeat. I've watched most if not all of the games and western athletes are magnanimous or self-critical, but not in tears. This is just the spin-doctors trying to whitewash what goes on behind the scenes in China, and it is unworthy of anyone suspicious of Chinese success and concerned about the athletes' health.

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  • 13. At 7:19pm on 16 Aug 2008, freddawlanen wrote:

    As long as competitors in any sport do their best, it doesn't matter where they place, as there can be only one winner.

    Striving for gold is important, but PBs and national records are still the benchmarks that everyone should be aiming at.
    When any athlete is interviewd and they aren't happy with their performance, then it is fair to criticize them.

    It doesn't matter what walk of life you are in, it is all about doing the best that YOU are capable of doing, in whatever you attempt.

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  • 14. At 7:21pm on 16 Aug 2008, rotorhead57 wrote:

    It isn't the winning but the taking part and trying your absolute best that counts. I don't care what position a British sportsperson comes as long as they strive to beat their personnel best. Too many have shrugged their shoulders and said 'I am better than that performance or I just couldn't do it today'. This is the Olympic games and if you cannot raise your game here when will you ! The difference between winners and the rest is that winners always raise their game when it matters most.

    Just another point I didn't like Gabby Logan's comments about not caring who came second because they were not British. Everyone needs to be gracious when we win which gladly the majority of the competitors are (Greco Roman Wrestler excluded )

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  • 15. At 7:35pm on 16 Aug 2008, Toby wrote:

    wrong wrong wrong. It's not the winning, it's not the taking part, it just beating the Australians that counts. :-)

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  • 16. At 7:48pm on 16 Aug 2008, BlinkenLights wrote:

    What #4 conveniently left out was the context of the comment.

    The picture showed the Italians celebrating with the caption stating the the Italian rider was the winner. This caused some confusion for the commentators and was in no way sneering or contempt for them. In fact if you actually listen to any of the commentary by the BBC team they are always generous and knowledgeable about other countries competitors.

    #14 - I think you will find that Gaby's comments about 2nd place was in reference to the 100m finals.

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  • 17. At 7:49pm on 16 Aug 2008, levdavidovich wrote:

    The main difference between China and the British regime, to use Bose's phraseology, is that in Britian winning is demanded without the resources to achieve it. The only way a young British competitor has a hope of a gold medal is if they have relatively wealthy parents to support their development.

    As long as this elitism continues, Britain cannot have a chance of that coveted fourth (or third) place in the medals table.

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  • 18. At 7:56pm on 16 Aug 2008, coach65 wrote:

    For me the attitude has to be - Throw absolutely EVERYTHING at it (your performance) and know that you could have done no more, during training OR the competition.

    This should hold true for all of our athletes.


    The majority of our track and field athletes will return home having won nothing, is that failure? I don't think so... to have qualified, entered the arena and given of your best is surely all anyone could ask.

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  • 19. At 8:14pm on 16 Aug 2008, levdavidovich wrote:

    "The majority of our track and field athletes will return home having won nothing, is that failure? I don't think so... to have qualified, entered the arena and given of your best is surely all anyone could ask."

    Well said!

    If only Seb Coe and his medal-obsessed cronies shared your viewpoint.

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  • 20. At 8:17pm on 16 Aug 2008, cousteau696 wrote:

    The ancient Olympics had it right - an accolade for the winner (a laurel wreath), and nothing for anyone else.

    So what if there are far more competitors in the modern Games - if it was proportionate, we'd have medals down to about 20th place in some events.

    Winning isn't everything; but it is the ONLY thing that matters!

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  • 21. At 8:19pm on 16 Aug 2008, MikeFay wrote:

    WishFairnessForAll - British masters in sneering and contempt for others? Well, you don't seem to be bad at it yourself.

    It was already explained ad infinitum to you in the blog at the time that the commentator for the cycling was confused by them showing the Italian with the winners caption, as was abundantly clear from his comments when they replayed the finish.

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  • 22. At 8:33pm on 16 Aug 2008, Wishfairness4all wrote:

    Number 16: That is rubbish and you know it - the Italians knew very well where their rider ended up: Do you honestly think they were watching the television whilst being at the home straight of an Olympic final? Give me a break.

    The truth is that the commentator made a sneering remark at fellow competitors and their support staff. This is by the way not the only incidence - you only have to listen at the joy every time an American comes up short.

    This is supposed to be a celebration of sporting achievement and not xenophobic drivel.

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  • 23. At 8:50pm on 16 Aug 2008, presidt wrote:

    To the victor go the spoils - prize money, accolades, sponsership, influence etc. etc. Look at he difference in press attention between our Gold and other medallists. Perhaps the IOC should consider ONLY awarding a Medal to the winner and forget silver and bronze?

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  • 24. At 8:59pm on 16 Aug 2008, EnglandsPete wrote:

    A thought provoking piece and some interesting comments. Someone mentioned context - if a 17 yr old sprinter from a sink estate somewhere reaches the final of the 200m then obviously that's fantastic and they should be praised - if a mature athlete who's had a fortune spent on them can't produce it on the big day then they should be embarrassed and apologetic.

    I love winners and enjoy sharing the country's pride in them; but I'll also be rooting for the inidividuals that are "worthy" - I want the South African aputee to win gold in open water for example.

    Finally can't understand how anyone switches country once they've worn their country's colours - an ultimate sign of chasing the money surely?

    EP

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  • 25. At 9:01pm on 16 Aug 2008, gflvern wrote:

    Matt Slater wrote a great piece on Thursday about why British track cycling is not reaching the great heights that it is. He quotes Peter Keen the man who start the revolution in British cycling...

    "In fact, it wasn't until late 2001 that the penny dropped. I needed to clear out riders and coaches who weren't obsessed with winning."

    From outside of the sport we can say what we like but for a lot of the athletes at the Olympics it's not about the winning but they will be the ones picking up the the silvers, bronzes and the also rans!

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  • 26. At 9:03pm on 16 Aug 2008, AFCB Si wrote:

    Wishfairness for all..

    I'm afraid you are talking rubbish. Xenophobic drivel? You obviously havent seen much foreign sports coverage (especially American) where in a track race they might just focus on their athlete and not actually on any other runners!! The BBC and British Eurosport are very fair in their coverage of the Olympics.

    The competitors taking part have shown great respect for their fellow competitors as far as I have seen. Something the overpaid, snarling footballers could take note of (and I'm a football fan too!)

    I'm glad that the UK team are more focused on winning these days. It is all that matters, but that doesn't mean you can't show respect and enjoy the experience.

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  • 27. At 9:44pm on 16 Aug 2008, Wishfairness4all wrote:

    LU7_RED

    It's interesting you change in your second paragraph from discussing the behaviour of the media to that of the competitors themselves - that's a completely different issue.

    We were talking about the sneering coverage by the BBC in many events. Whilst the Americans are a bit different I can assure you that sports coverage in several countries on the continent is more balanced and less xenophobic than what we get here (I lived there and speak the lingos....). They support their team but are fairer and often more critical of their own teams/competitors as compared to the BBC.

    Magnamanious in victory and gracious in defeat is what makes real champions - maybe the BBC and its reporters should think about this guideline once in a while.

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  • 28. At 9:45pm on 16 Aug 2008, derekjoe wrote:

    To Crowperson

    About your comment on Chinese sports, I think I have some information to share with you.

    First, I don't know from where you get this "coercion" point, maybe you just take it for granted from former East European examples. So I'd tell you, this is a fast-changing world, China is never the same with 30 years ago, and quite different from former East European countries. If you don't know that, then maybe you should go there and observe for some time. Don't believe everything you hear from some sinophobic media. Sometimes those people only believe what they want to believe. FYI, I can tell you some stories that you'll never know from those media. Du Li, who lost her first match in tears, told her coach she wanted to quit from the next match. Her coach told her to calm down and made the dicision later. Days later she decided to keep fighting and finally won her gold medal. In your coercion opinion, can you believe she has the right to decide? (You can find it from the post-match press conference)

    Secondly, I don't think athletes play under pressure via coercion can make good results, and you can prove the contrary easily. We Chinese are also human beings. If we were told to win or to die, we would perform like carrying a huge burden on back. So I think champions are those who really know how to relax during games. So far Chinese athletes are performing well in Beijing, I think a punishment threat would have never done such work.

    Finally, I do think "drug-taking is nothing new" in the West. But for China, can you name one Olympic medalist who's proved using drugs? This "drug-taking" line can only make your argument even more pathetic.

    ps: I'm non-native English speaker, so sorry for any grammatical and spelling mistakes.

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  • 29. At 9:50pm on 16 Aug 2008, ladyedinburghgirl wrote:

    If I hear that a competitor has achieved at or above their personal best then I am pleased for them whereever they come from, that is all that can be asked of them.

    What is the matter with being pleased for a young person who has got to the Olympics and done their best. Not everyone can win a gold medal obviously. What is the matter with silver or bronze - that may be more than anyone hoped for before the games began and is a measure of their success. Phelps won his last gold medal by 10,000th of a second - does that mean the Serbian who was second by a fingerprint should not be recognised for his achievement despite the fact that he came second? This seems to be the attitude of some here.

    What concerns me is not fostering a winning mentality but if the need to win results in cheating or in looking down on others who only come second or belittling a country who do not have as many medals as we do then that is wrong and there is no doubt that the media do encourage such attitudes. Even the BBC can go into overdrive occasionally and I have to turn the sound off.

    Finally I am very pleased that we have won some gold medals. The people who have won have worked very hard for them and the lottery money that is being poured into British sport is bringing dividends in certain sports at last. However I can also appreciate brilliant performances from other countries athletes and also the person from a small unsung country who do their best. And that is the way it should be.

    Just because a British person wins an olympic gold medal does not make us a better people in a wonderful nation.= - it is just a game after all and should be enjoyed as such.

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  • 30. At 10:26pm on 16 Aug 2008, BlinkenLights wrote:

    WishFairnessForAll...

    I have watched a lot of coverage and not once seen or heard anything less than fairness towards other nations.

    A lot of the BBC coverage is online, so perhaps you could point out some examples of sneering, contempt and xenophobia so we can see it for ourselves.

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  • 31. At 11:07pm on 16 Aug 2008, Ryan86 wrote:

    There was an example after todays 4 man rowing final where the British narrowly won and the experts on the radio concluded that Britain won the medal because they wanted it more than the Australians did and weren't happy to settle silver.

    To me that's the ultimate insult to the Aussie crew, saying that they cared less about getting the gold medal than our crew did.

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  • 32. At 00:02am on 17 Aug 2008, ajdant wrote:

    I agree that these days it seems that it is only the Gold that counts (despite what the Americans have been saying as they are put in the shade by the Chinese) so would it not be implausible that in the age of big money sponsorships that the Silver and Bronze category be dropped and a 'winner takes all' approach is adopted? Would hate to see it, but it seems that is the way sporting culture is heading.

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  • 33. At 00:11am on 17 Aug 2008, jngostick wrote:

    What was exhilarating about one of Hoy's races, I think it was qualifying, was when he got boxed in and he in as many ways said "NO I am going to win", went assertively to the front and won the race.

    Yes, to win you have to have the basic physical ability, but you also have to have the mental ability.

    Hoy, Adlington and particularly the rowing four had the mental ability as well.

    Too often British sportsmen crack, Cricket and Football in particular. Please somehow can we translate the mental approach from cycling into other British sport. I doubt that there is something peculiar in the water that makes Britsih cycling better than any other country, so it has got to be down to finding the right individuals and then developing them in the right cuture..and not the terrible "it's alright init, I'm a first time olympian" (so I can lose) language that seems to come from the athletes

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  • 34. At 01:41am on 17 Aug 2008, dennisjunior1 wrote:

    Mihir:

    I think that the title of your blog this week, is absolutely correct.

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  • 35. At 03:15am on 17 Aug 2008, BeijingDave wrote:

    Those complaining about BBC over covering British athletes should try watching Chinese TV. I've not seen a single non-Chinese medal ceremony and despite 5 channels at least showing the Games getting to see an event without a Chinese competitor is pretty rare.

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  • 36. At 03:19am on 17 Aug 2008, BeijingDave wrote:

    All countries I have been in concentrate hudely on their own athletes. British and American TV get the most criticism perversly because as English language stations they are viewed by many more foreign people than most nations own stations. In truth from my experience of watching sport in a number of countries I'd say the BBC is probably the most balanced of the lot.

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  • 37. At 04:48am on 17 Aug 2008, NightRider wrote:

    In general, agree with the line of thought. Unless a sportsman believes in, and goes for winning, they'll rarely succeed. There's no use in showing up in a final to compete.

    I am not sure the role of the media is highlighted well in this article. Yes, Chinese sportsmen are under the pressure of satisfying a billion wishes. But that kind of pressure is there everywhere, even in the West. Imagine the pressure that Vaughan and co. were under in the 2005 Ashes (after the British public started believing that they can win a test match against Aus). And what about the pressure India was in, in that cricket final that you mention. And the pressure British media puts on Andy Murray and had been putting on Tim Henman all these years. Even if the athlete wants to compete, the media will not let him - they will want him to win.

    And to add one more point, as it is very relevant. The most whiny, condescending and substandard media in the world, is unfortunately British. When they win, it is talked about for decades, because normally they dont repeat the win within that timeframe. When they lose, they blame it on other factors, or complain against the opposition, or try to "find the positives", as English cricket captains are great at. They also have a very bad habit of talking down countries from the East, their hotels, their traffic and their food etc. For example, they still talk of "Delhi belly" affecting their cricketers when the national food of England is Indian curry.

    All of this creates a very convoluted view of sport in both the minds of the sportsmen as well as the viewers. It takes a lot for sportsmen to stay aware from the glare of the media and not read the papers. Media has to really get their act together - they really need to ensure that they have the right credentials and education of people who are covering sport.

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  • 38. At 06:37am on 17 Aug 2008, timmychimp wrote:

    A totally un-British article. I'm always far more impressed by those athletes representing war-torn or repressed nations who are happy just to have a chance to compete.

    Robina Muqimyar of Afghanistan had to endure death threats and had no real training facilities for the 2004 Olympics. Seeing her finish 7th in her 100m heat, just ahead of a Somali sprinter (3 seconds behind the rest of the field), was far more moving than seeing Bolt destroy the field yesterday. Aggrandising the self-aggrandised serves no purpose.

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  • 39. At 07:29am on 17 Aug 2008, shanian1963 wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 40. At 08:40am on 17 Aug 2008, MissDozy wrote:

    And all exemplified by the medals table where only golds count as the ranking criterion. So much for the Olympian ideal. And they should cease to allow professionals from competing - they have their own international and lucrative stages on which to compete - and once they go, some of the essence of the Olympics can be restored.

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  • 41. At 09:45am on 17 Aug 2008, NipponBlue wrote:

    Shanian1963 do you really believe what you said? "You are racist. Racists ascribe attitudes which characterise some members of a group to all members."
    So by your definition you are saying that if I say Australians are nice people then I am also a racist?
    I think you should be more careful with the way you use the word 'racist'. Why not call us a bunch of sore losers first? Australians are always making fun of English people and English sportsmen, but it does bother be in the least it is just good mannered sporting banter.

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  • 42. At 10:53am on 17 Aug 2008, swswfel wrote:

    China is not 20 years ago.1988 when LiNing came back without a gold,people treated him as a crap.But now things changed,we celebrate with all the athletes.For example,when Zhu got the silver,he was voted as the day's star by using mobile phone message,rather than the other champion that day;We celebrate with Phelps taking 8 gold medal as well as when GB women team broke the WR;We are also crazy with with Bolt's 9'69,etc.The Olympics made us feel happy.And what's more,we are going to learn more from outside.Learn their spirit, attitude, demeanor.Our people's bad habits are still so much,but I believe the more education can make it better.
    After 30 years' opening up,China has completely changed.We just later than countries like Japan and Korea.Please do know more about us.Know what we are thinking by yourself rather than by some unfair media.Check that if we are those dangerous communist enemies.
    China has a ancient proverb"the frog under the well can only see a radio sky that small".We were once closed,so we got our backward nation.But in fact,who is the frog now?

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  • 43. At 12:42pm on 17 Aug 2008, swazinho wrote:

    an interesting point/question for you mihir...

    with the official olympic medal table, i assume that it is compiled firstly on the number of gold medals, then a mix of the silver and bronze medals? as on the official olympics website, and on the bbc site also, the table is assumed on this theory.

    whereas on espn, sports illustrated etc. in the states, they focus on the TOTAL medal haul. is this because they know they will win the most medals (gold, silver and bronze) and thus ensuring they finish (in their minds) top of the medal table. because as it stands at 13:41 CET, china lead the table in the worlds eys, but team usa lead the way in those rose tinted lenses that the americans wear.

    'world series' of baseball anyone?!

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  • 44. At 12:44pm on 17 Aug 2008, wanderinginsummer wrote:

    derekjoe, well said!!!!

    yes, winning is important and the gold medals look more shinning than the bronze ones!
    but it's not all about winning!!!
    Mihir Bose, I wish you could change your perspective in observing China, not as a journalist but as a ordinary human being with emotion and understanding. Chinese athelets bear a lot of pressure because they are winning for their country and they carry the hope of their people! they are not just winning for themselves!
    please don't use those communist phrase just because it sells.
    If you ask the Chinese who they think the hero is in beijing's game, I bet many would tell you it's the Iraq team!!! medals means nothing when comparing to what the Iraq team have gone through, they already became the champion when entering the game!!!

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  • 45. At 3:43pm on 17 Aug 2008, Mallory45 wrote:

    We Brits have historically been very good at being 'sporting' and being proud to 'step up and take part' oten to our detriment when it comes to results. However we do now seem to have got the emotional balance better and have more of the grit and determination often shown by the Eastern Block Nations in the past. By contrast their athletes now seem to able to compete at their best but without the 'no win no dinner' attitude that seemed to exist in years past.

    We are really enjoying the coverage but PLEASE can we be the 'British Team' or 'Britain' NOT the naff 'Team GB'! It belittles our athletes to refer to them in such a grotty way.

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  • 46. At 3:48pm on 17 Aug 2008, What Would Clough Do wrote:

    If silver and bronze don't matter! Then why have them? Look how close the competitions can be. 100 Bronzes is more successful competitions and athletes than 25 Golds or 50 Silvers if we used an example say, where a country won none of the other medals.

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  • 47. At 4:50pm on 17 Aug 2008, Bob in Bury wrote:

    If we persist, as some people here suggest, with this "as long as you do your best" attitudes, then we will never win anything. What is the point of ploughing 100's of millions of pounds of tax payers money into athletes and Olympians who "do their best" and finish last?

    You can't win if you don't attempt to win. If you're not at the Olympics for the purpose of winning, then you should have stayed at home.

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  • 48. At 5:30pm on 17 Aug 2008, Sarfend4ever wrote:

    Good blog this. I think that we should return to the original Olympian ideal and award laurel leaves to the winners and have everyone compete in the altogether as the ancients did.

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  • 49. At 5:37pm on 17 Aug 2008, Mallory45 wrote:

    Wow! This blog really rocks! I posted a comment at 15.43 nd at 17.36 it has STILL not been posted, I bet folks hang on every word!

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  • 50. At 5:42pm on 17 Aug 2008, Mallory45 wrote:

    Beg your pardon! I didnt realise I had to change view to see my post!

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  • 51. At 7:18pm on 17 Aug 2008, DrCajetanCoelho wrote:

    Winning Oly medal is one thing and winning sympathy for not getting a medal is a different thing. Most participants would love to return home with a medal and show it to all and sundry.

    We in India are happy for a historic triumph by our Indian sharp shooter Oly Gold medalist Abhinav Bindra. In the next Oly Games in London we hope to improve on this fine beginning.


    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

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  • 52. At 06:28am on 18 Aug 2008, marion24 wrote:

    Interesting blog post; but surely all athletes aspire to wear a medal around their neck? Pressure exists for all the athletes in the Olympics, not just for those on the Chinese team.

    And as you mentioned the Indian sporting mentality, the Chinese athlete also has a different sort of gaming perspective. Winning a gold medal isn't for the self, it is for the entire population. The 'me' only factors in a small part of the win....so when is comes to losing, it's as though the group has lost.

    Along the lines of what swswfel said, the Chinese mentality with games has changed over the past few decades. They understand that making it into the Olympics is a great feat in itself, and from what had been aired on television the crowd has never 'booed' or jeered at any athlete that didn't make it onto the top three places. There's more respect and compassion around for athletes.

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  • 53. At 09:18am on 18 Aug 2008, pjcornhill wrote:

    I have to disagree it is not the winning nor the taking part that is important it is the trying to win... if the person is the best we have and they try their best on the day and achieve their best (or if lucky better than their best) they have won... they have beaten themselves what else can anyone ask? If they also beat everyone else then we get a medal but if someone is the 4th best in the world and everyone performs on the day... they will never come anything other than 4th... but at least as 4th best they achieved 4th best... that is the important thing... then if 1,2, or 3 under perform they are there to achieve Bronze, Silver or Gold... what more can you ask of anybody? Nothing!

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  • 54. At 10:18am on 18 Aug 2008, mannubhai wrote:

    Winning is a habit, which comes from if there is conscious committed effort every time.
    Where else the spirit of participation has more to do with the background of the individual. It's a method to overcome the fear of failure.

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  • 55. At 12:26pm on 18 Aug 2008, Stop_it_Aggers wrote:

    Some of the best moments for me have been Brits being unhappy with their performance - Kelly Sotherton's radio interview after two PBs on Day 1 ("I was crap") and the heartrending sight of the women's quad getting "only" a silver. Not surprising that Romero did so well at her second sport with that background, just a shame most of our athletes still have the "old" mentality. Kat Grainger to be the new backside-kicker in athletics?

    I don't have too much of a problem with "here for 2012" if it's a 19 year-old who's mebbe 15th in the world at the moment - there's good evidence that it does improve your chances for next time. But in athletics in particular you do get a sense that some people are there just because it's Buggins' turn.

    And whilst we're talking about the "softness" of GB athletics - surely it's time Brendan Foster (Olympic record - lost once) was put out to pasture? He's so "inside" the sport his crawling (particularly to anyone living within 100 miles of the Tyne) is cringe-worthy - getting rid of him would get rid of 75% of complaints about BBC coverage. Compare him with the peerless Topolski, who keeps his trap shut most of the time but as a coach sees all the subtle technicalities like a change in length or a loss of crispness. We could do with more coaches and fewer ex-athletes on the Beeb IMO.

    Also on the rowing - Inverdale is a great broadcaster, but he's not the person to be doing the rowing mix zone, some of the most emotionally-charged interviews of all. If ever there was one spot that should be held by the Beeb's army of women, that would be the one - rowers are used to being shouted at by small gobby women. ;-/ I get the feeling that Invers is on a bit of a jolly, with perhaps too much time being spent down the pub rather than doing his research (eg his cluelessness in the face of that Norwegian sculler that had been working with Redgrave - squirmworthy).

    He would be much better in the studio, to balance the sexist BBC's lineup of presenters, whose token male eye candy thinks the 4- is the blue riband of rowing (try the eights) and that Czechoslovakia still exists. If that was the gender balance was reversed, people would be up in arms.

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  • 56. At 12:46pm on 18 Aug 2008, paulsfitz wrote:

    I think you can look at this 2 ways. On one hand there can only be one winner, and even going out in the semis of swimming and track means you are in the top 16 of the world!!! That has to be applauded, but I also want people to hear athletes say that 14th is not good enough, unless that was all they were ever going to be. However, as I have said else where in this forum, we now have to spend MORE lottery money to make sure we stay where we are and to push on further. Our swimmers have won golds, made finals and broke records thanks to one thing. The money being made available to let people concentrate on their dream to win medals. The cyclists, rower, sailors etc are all the same and have become dominant thanks to the right people been given the resources to do what they do best. I heard a rumour that the archers might lose lottery funding, due to a poor performance. This is SO WRONG, we need to find the people who can make us better and keep pushing. If we can get the same set up in track and field, then who knows. Winning takes hours, weeks, months and years of dedication, but it also takes money. Lets make sure we dont short change people now!!!

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  • 57. At 2:05pm on 18 Aug 2008, DHesketh wrote:

    I find it hard to accept that only crossing the line first matters.

    Take Louis Smith for example. His individual Bronze on the pommel is a phenomenal feat and one that he can surely improve upon over the coming years.

    The point was that it was the best he could achieve personally at this time in his career and will only serve to drive him on towards more success.

    Statistically, in any sport, as one rises through the ranks, defeat (or not winning)will be as regular part of the diet as victory. But look at Rebecca Romero and her reaction to defeat 4 years ago. It spurred her on to making sure that, next time, Gold and only Gold would be hers.

    Only one person or team can stand on the top of the podium and therefore by definition the vast majority of competitors will "lose" and they must find a way to accept it. Many will never reach the top of their sport.

    Take poor old Ryan Lochte for example. There is a man who has swum fast enough to break world records many times. In another time he would be on top of the world. His problem is that spot is currently occupied by one M. Phelps and will be probably until Lochte has given his all and is well past his best and, despite his phenomenal talent, he will therefore be regarded as a bit of an "also-ran"

    But should we consign these athletes to "also-rans" just because they never manage to perch on that very narrow mountain-top? Even to be there on the mountain in the first place they will have had practice, train and win, win, and win again throughout their careers and probably from a very young age.

    Ultimately the question must be "Did I do the best I was capable of?". Of course that, by virtue of being an Olympic competitor, is already far in excess of what us mere mortals could hope to achieve.

    And there have been GB personal bests galore for us to celebrate. Imagine how the rest of us would feel if we could say "I've just played/run/swum/ridden the best I have ever done in my entire life - bar none". How good must that feel? I know it would feel like a Gold medal to me.

    And if the best they can possibly produce is not yet good enough to be better than the rest of the world then so be it.

    I'm sure though that the ladies coxless four or Kelly Sotheton felt on Sunday that their performances were less than they were capable of and, what's worse, that their best performances would have got them the Gold.

    And that must feel like the most devastating defeat of all.

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  • 58. At 08:24am on 19 Aug 2008, SilverSven wrote:

    Mihir - What are your thoughts on all the American news outlets (all those that I have seen anyway) putting USA in the top spot on their medal table with China second, and Russia third. At the time of writing GBR is in joint fifth with France.

    Is this because they all suffer from poor arithmatic? Nope, it's because the USA is measuring success by the total number of medals won, rather than the officially recognised tally of gold medals.

    This is typical of the sort of behaviour which does not endear America to the world.

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  • 59. At 4:52pm on 19 Aug 2008, Stop_it_Aggers wrote:

    Doesn't bother me too much, it's just the US playing politics with the Chinese. But if they want to boast that they have more losers than the rest of the world, that's fine by me....

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  • 60. At 00:18am on 21 Aug 2008, liovang wrote:

    it's true that chinese value gold medals most, that's why chinese keep say tally of golds, it is interesting to see that the americans do the total count.

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  • 61. At 12:40pm on 26 Aug 2008, Stop_it_Aggers wrote:

    SilverSven (#58)

    There's been a lot of debate about this, but apparently the US has _always_ used total medals, even in 1964 when they got 90 and their great Communist rivals got 96; if they'd counted gold medals (36 versus Russia's 30) they would have "won" that year.

    So it's not a new thing, and it's not done necessarily to make them "look good". The Aussies were less scrupulous this time though....

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