It used to be a complaint from the elites. Australians are too obsessed with sport, so unlike the cultured European countries, they said .
You hardly hear that lament these days. The European countries have just caught up with Australia, and the French in particular have turned out to be…..exactly the same as us.
It is of course a mistake to see sport and culture as incompatible opposites. Australia has long been a highly cultured country, which can be demonstrated by numerous indicators.
Literacy is of course a key factor in the annual United Nations Human Development Index, where we are always – always – among the leaders.
In terms of the basic culture of governing ourselves we are among the world’s leaders.
While the elites lament that no one is interested in a republic, and Australians do not lie awake at night wondering who their Head of State is, they certainly stay up late to watch their sports.
And before the Beijing Olympics are over, let’s put one matter in context.
We are not fourth or fifth in the Olympic medal tally. If you look at the first 20 countries in the tally, we are actually winning, or we are second after Jamaica.
And by the way, mes chers compatriots republicains, Jamaica is like us, a constitutional monarchy with Elizabeth II as Sovereign.
And a very popular Sovereign at that.
Talking of fellow Realms, New Zealand is also doing superbly.
And how good it is to see the resurgence of the UK, which is after all, the home of most modern sport.
This British resurgence will be a very good thing, and counter the fissiparous tendencies which have resulted from politicians using devolution to push their importance.
After all why be a mere first minister of a province when you can be a world leader?
Followers of the Olympics in the UK will think of themselves as British first.
Sport is very good at doing that sort of thing. A few years ago when the French soccer team (you may call it football but we call it soccer) was mainly black, or not exactly white, this did wonders for the acceptance of these races in France.
…and why not compare apples with apples?…
We measure wealth on a per capita basis. We should do the same with the Olympics.
I suggest the medal tally have two more columns to the present four which show gold, silver, and bronze medals and then the overall total.
A fifth column would show the result of the population divided by gold medals. The sixth would show the population divided by all medals.
This would give some balance in measuring the results. Just as we do when we compare the wealth of countries.