Wednesday, 19 December 2012

UK Government Message to Olympic Athletes: Winning is all that matters!

The good news is that the UK government increased the funding for the Olympics 2016, from £312m to £347m. Of course, there is a catch...

I haven't tried to find the link, but I am quite sure that at some point around the time of the London Olympics the UK government issued the standard discourse of support to athletes. Whoever happens to have it, I would be glad if you could point it in the comments, please.

The standard discourse is that the objective of the sport is to create opportunities, to give an objective and hope for those who are in need, to inspire people, to send the message that WINNING IS NOT EVERYTHING... Well, it seems that we are in a new era that politicians don't really matter anymore to hide their true aims from the public. I don't know what is worse.

I'm saying that because, if you read the article above, you will see that the government simply cut the funding for sports that they think will not bring medals to the UK in 2016. Some of those sports, like basketball, had their funding decreased to... zero! The justification? In the words of the sports minister Hugh Robertson:
When people look at it, they know that is done on a performance basis. There is not a lot of point at this level, funding teams that are not going to qualify for the Olympics.
So, even before the athletes have the chance to try, the nice minister Hugh Robertson is saying that they will not. So much for a vote of confidence here... But even before saying that, what is most impressive is that he was not ashamed of saying the following sentence which was supposed to be a justification about why they had funded those teams in 2012:
I think people understand that when you host a home Olympics you have to put teams out in every single sport. Bizarre though it sounds to say it now, the rationale is to drive ticket sales.
I think that the only sensible thing he said here was that it indeed sounds bizarre! Not unexpected though. What is amazing is that he is admitting that the government was not interested in supporting the athletes, it was interested in boosting ticket sales!!!!

What the article makes clear is that the point of view of the government is that the athletes have little value themselves. The fact that they trained hard doesn't matter. In a competition where there is only three medals for each category and 204 countries participate, our government is saying that if you do not win, then you are not worth any investment. Nice. Save the Olympic spirit!

You might say that at least the government is increasing the funding, but think better about it. The annual inflation rate in the UK in the last 4 years was always above 2% and even reached 5%. If I am nice and estimate the inflation rate for the next 4 years as 3%m, a little below the mean of 2 and 5, guess how much the amount of £312m would be in 4 years... the answer is £351m! That means that the government is saying that it is increasing the funding in 11% to look nice, but actually they are decreasing it overall! Believe me, the government has a lot of people doing estimates much better than the one I did!

The problem is that we are the guilty ones here. Whenever we close our eyes to what is happening to other sectors, we open the possibility of that happening to us as well. Arts and science have been suffering this kind of thing for a long time, but I doubt there were many athletes worried about that. Now it's their time. You should think very deeply about one thing... When is it gonna be yours?

Tuesday, 11 December 2012


"This kind of non mission-driven, non utilitarian work addressing purely intellectual issues is not expected to be supported by any U.S. grant agency"

This sad sentence is the last line (before the references) of the paper:

Emergence: Key physical issues for deeper philosophical inquiries 
B.L. Hu 


US is not the only country which would not support the acquisition of pure knowledge. No country in the world would. Most individuals with money in the world would. Why would they?

Don't expect me to say that knowledge is not valued today. It never was actually. Probably not even by you, the reader, if you think hard enough.