I am full of admiration for the skill and determination of Team GB’s Olympic competitors. I am delighted for them, and share the nation’s joy at their success.
As someone who had a wasted youth from the sports point of view, I admire those who chose to spend their young hours training, training, and training some more. In my youth I read too many books and was too studious, as I sought to become an elite academic. It stopped me, or gave me the excuse, from turning out in all weathers to try to run faster or jump higher.
What I find most encouraging is the public reaction. I like my country and usually agree with my fellow countrymen and women about many things. I do not, however, like the politics of envy which can be a feature of UK life. There are politicians and sometimes whole political parties, who specialise in attacking those who work hard and achieve things. There is a strong strand of political thought hostile to people concentrating on winning , and hostile to success itself. The politicians and tabloid newspapers sometimes feed off negative emotions in the wider public.
Maybe it is understandable that elite footballers, who earn such large sums for their skills, have to live in a gold fish bowl, with their lives automatically made part of some national soap opera that calls into question their marriages, their love affairs, their leisure activites and their general conduct. When a whole sector of the economy, like banking, is vilified because some at the top behaved badly, or because the last government foolishly subsidised them, we need to ask if the politics of envy is starting to attack too many of the wrong people.
The Olympics has allowed people to celebrate hard work and competitive success. It is not just athletes who do that. Some in business or public service work hard, put in the extra effort, strive to be the best. They do not receive gold medals. Let us hope that the public enthusiasm for being the best, and understanding how much effort is involved in achieving that, rubs off. Let us extend those principles more widely. If the UK can be the third most successful nation in Olympic sports, depsite having a much smaller population than several other competitor countries, can’t we show the same determination and achieve the same success as an industrial and service sector nation in the markets of the world?
If we are not jealous or censorious of elite athletes competing hard, and becoming rich and famous as a result, can we overcome some of the collective jealousy of others who chose a different route to fame or riches?