Ireland’s two speed performance at the Olympics…

What’s been astonishing at this Olympic games is just how well the British appear to have performed in comparison with past outings. Ireland’s performance in comparison begins to point not at lack of talent (of course it is a more limited pool) but structural weaknesses in the way sport is funded. Generally, Northern Irish competitors have with Team GB fared much better, hitting finals in several sports and in the case of Wendy Houvenaghel from Upperlands in Co Derry who took silver in cycling. Yesterday, the UK papers were at pains to point out just how potent the Lottery system has been at micro funding athletes at critical stages of their development, though it seems to me that that is only part of the story. Serious amounts of central funds have been committed in infrastructure as well as in importing top level coaches. And Ireland’s most notable failures so far, seem to me to amount to coaching failure rather than absence of competitive talent. Over at Brassneck I’ve argued that British Olympic success has relied on building a genuine sporting culture over the longer term. Not as Tom Humphries perceptively points out, by confusing “an ole-ole-ole tradition with a sporting culture.”

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  • cynic

    “What’s been astonishing at this Olympic games is just how well the British appear to have performed in comparison with past outings ”

    I think there is some truth on this but I am not clear yet to what extent the timing of events is influencing our perception of overall performance. I wish them luck but we need to see the end state.

    On BBC TV last night there were however some interesting comments about the way in which cycling and swimming have used their funding with great success while athletics hasn’t. The inter-sport rivalry for funding was apparent and there were strong hints of fragmentation and a lack of direction and focus within the Athletics hierarchy – but the proof of the pudding will be seen over the next few days.

  • El Paso

    Thanks Mick for a refreshingly obvious analysis of Ireland’s performance – the normal excuse for our poor Olympic showing is the GAA. It stands to reason that better funding should yield better results, especially for highly technical team events like cycling, rowing and the other sitting down sports. But the sums involved are staggering. Do we really need medals that badly? Personaly, I couldn’t give a shit.

  • Mick Fealty

    EP:

    “…the other sitting down sports”

    Have you seen the state of those guys even ten minutes after the race is over? Though I suspect your last question is critical as to whether headway is likely to be made in future. Sustainability of effort has to be the critical factor in both places. That’s as much about building a genuine sporting culture as much as about smart funding.

  • Dave

    “The department put funding over the four-year Olympic cycle leading up to Beijing at £265m ($495m), compared with £84m for Athens and £63m for Sydney.”

    Mick, even if we were equal to the UK in results, that still wouldn’t add up to one gold medal on a per capita basis (we have to win 1 gold for every 16 UK golds), so, due to our tiny size as a nation, Olympic sport is never going to be an arena where we will steal the show.

    I think it would be a waste of Irish taxpayers (or Lotto players’) money to invest in something that will be of no practical benefit to the Ireland. It is better to invest in sports as a social benefit rather than as the form of nationalism that the Olympics represent.

  • Glencoppagagh

    Mick
    The other reason NI competitors are faring better with GB is that they are better.
    If you’re good enough for the GB team you’ve got a better chance of winning a medal whereas if you’re not so good you can at least get on the Irish team and go to the Olympics. You only have to look at performances of the two swimmers who were selected for Ireland.

  • Pete Baker

    On the British cycling success, Steve Ovett made a great point this morning when comparing the cycling preparation to the athletics.

    Only cyclists who are part of the Manchester set-up, with the velodrome and the coaching structure there, receive lottery funding – all building from the Commonwealth games in 2002.

    In short there’s a team set-up, with built-in camaraderie and competition, already in place.

    Add in the focus that provides for funding and other resources, and the not inconsiderable commitment of the individual athletes involved, and you start to see some of the reasons behind that success.

  • Brian Walker

    …and the British achievement is one in the eye for the Ozzies as the BBC’s Nick Bryant reported:
    Extracts:

    Britain Tops Australia in gold medals.Not my headline, but the words of the Sydney Morning Herald. It’s an Olympic story that is getting quite a bit of play here – it got second billing on the SMH website, nudged off the top of the online podium by the resignation of the leader of a nuclear-armed country in one of the most troubled corners of the world.

    So, yep, it must have been a close call.

    And there was me thinking we’d have to wait for the Ashes next year for a good, old-fashioned Anglo-Australian stoush.

    The last time Britain out-medalled Australia, Bob Hawke and Margaret Thatcher occupied The Lodge and Number Ten, and Rebecca Adlington and Stephanie Rice had not even entered the world let alone leapt into an Olympics-sized swimming pool.

    Seoul 1988 – the Brits got 5, while the Aussies got 3. Thereafter, the Aussies have always ended up on top.

    • 17/9 in Athens
    • 16/11 in Sydney
    • 9/1 in Atlanta
    • 7/5 in Barcelona

    That may happen at Beijing, too – although the failure of Australian men’s swimming team to win a single gold (it’s the first time that’s happened since the Aussie annus horribilis of 1976 in Montreal) and the British domination in cycling makes it tough.

    Even John Coates, the head of Australian Olympic Committee, has conceded publicly that the Poms might edge out the Aussies. “Not bad for a country that has no swimming pools and very little soap,” as he himself would doubtless put it.

    To tread the dark path of sporting cliché – or to retread it – Australia has been a victim of its own success. The Australian Institute of Sport, established in the wake of the disastrous Montreal Games, set the gold standard – and has since been copied all over the world.

    The British cycling coach Shane Sutton won gold at the 1978 Commonwealth Games for – wait for it, Australia. Top quality coaches can reportedly earn five times as much in Britain than in Australia.

    An Australian coached the Brazilian winner of the 50 metres freestyle, who edged out the pre-games favourite, Eamon Sullivan. The legendary Aussie swim coach, Ken Wood, openly sold his training techniques to the Chinese, which might have cost his protégé, Jessica Schipper, a gold (she was beaten by a Chinese swimmer).

    Who knows whether the Brits will ultimately beat the Aussies. But goodness me, the next few days are going to be close and fun”.

  • Lamaria

    Maybe there should be more investment in performance-enhancing drugs as that seems the only way Ireland can get to the top of the Olympic rostrum these days. Anyone remember Michelle Smith (or was it De Brun?)

  • ulsterfan

    Have you noticed the decline of former “soviet” eastern European states in athletics and swimming.
    Drug testing at the highest level must be encouraged.
    GB have a good foundation for London2012 and the future will be brighter if sport can only be reintroduced into schools.

  • Brian Walker

    And let’s not leave out the small local angle.. Three cheers for my old friend Ed Curran of the Belfast Telegraph, having the time of his life in Beijing and carrying the torch for Northern Ireland.

    Column and report extracts:

    “It was quite frankly the greatest sporting experience of my life. To be in the Olympic stadium on Saturday night around 10.30pm Beijing time and to witness the fastest man on Earth…..
    At every level of these games, the passion and pride of success comes through. In Northern Ireland’s case, it rested yesterday on the shoulders of Wendy Houvenaghel. Actually being here at an Olympics makes one appreciate the effort and commitment that competitors like Wendy have made to reach this pinnacle in sport.”

    Thursday, 14 August 2008
    Northern Ireland’s Alan Campbell is through to the final of the Men’s Single Sculls in Beijing.

    “It was a moment to savour when Northern Ireland’s Alan Campbell guaranteed his place in an Olympic final yesterday afternoon about 20 miles north of Beijing…
    For a moment we thought Campbell had given his all. Then, as he passed where I sat, with 100 metres to go, his stroke quickened, the cheering reached a crescendo, and he finished the fastest of all.…

    Campbell’s qualification for the final later this week was the triumph of his physical and mental strength over yesterday’s adverse elements. Spectators in the grandstands were soaked in sweat. For Campbell, himself, as he lost pounds through perspiration, it was certainly a long way from a cold winter’s morning on the River Bann, where he learnt his skills”.

    (Campbell missed a medal but came in a creditable fifth in the final last Saturday).

    And inevitably memories of 1972, the darkest year.. …

    “Royal Avenue was alive with applause as she stood proudly on the back of a lorry, acknowledging the acclaim of the city and showing to us all her prize. Mary Peters had returned home with the only athletics gold medal won by the British team in the Munich Olympics.

    Mary’s achievement lightened the darkness of those days. She was an instant celebrity, winning that year’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year. She has since become a shining role model, a soft-spoken ambassador for Northern Ireland wherever she has travelled. But I’m sure neither she, nor her coach, the late Buster McShane, realised that day when I met them in his beleaguered city-centre gym, how much winning would change her life and put Ulster on the map for more than terror on its streets.”

  • Dec

    Three cheers for my old friend Ed Curran of the Belfast Telegraph, having the time of his life in Beijing and carrying the torch for Northern Ireland.

    Brian

    Did Ed get to any of Paddy Barnes’ bouts? Or was his schedule filled up by following the progress of a woman who, and correct me if I’m wrong, represented England in the commonwealth games?

  • West Belfast

    Totally agree that Ireland has a poor infrastructure.

    As for Team GB – as someone said they do well in the sports that Africans cannot afford. All the sports they do well in are for toffs! Cycling costs a fortune; rowing for Eton boys; horses that dance!! Sailing, in the name of God! The GB person who deserves credit is the swimmer who won but again – not too many swimming pools in central Africa – remember Eric the eel?

    In saying all that – why cant Ireland be good at these toff sports – was the celtic tiger good for nothing? Togo has won a medal for Gods sake.

    Come on our boxers – go and beat the living daylights out of someone and make us feel proud!

  • Mick Fealty

    WB:

    Buried in amongst all those sour grapes you have a legit point. British AND Irish Athletics is grinding to a halt as an internationally competitive base. Eammon Coughlin got to world class because of a scholarship to the states. Now there is stiffer competition for those places, and few facilities at home.

    A Tory friend said to me yesterday that a lot of GB’s success was built on the back of Public School culture (certainly in the case of rowing). But even that has to be modified. That was the case back in 72 when as a 14 year old I first took a serious interest in the games, and they were noticeably crap.

    I’d say Pete has the right of this that centralisation of facilities and smart funding have improved what’s there beyond recognition. As for Yachts, as former Holywood kid, I am saying nothing, except Ireland did not entirely embarrass itself in the sport. It would be one I’d pick to grow and invest in.

    Dec,

    “Meaoooowwww…” Did no one feed you your milk this morning? ;o)

  • Ulsters my homeland

    Ireland’s best performance was in the 1908 Olympics, but then they were properly managed back then. Just imagine what could have been? Shame really!

  • Dave

    Mick, we need to focus our attention on competing in the Special Olympics instead. To this end, I propose that we lobby the relevant council to include categories of ‘Hating on politicians’ and ‘Church bashing’ for the Republic and categories of ‘Mopery’ ‘Whataboutry’ ‘It’s all your fault & No, it’s all your fault’ and ‘Marching’ for NI. We’d clean up if only we played to our particular skills.

  • An Ceilleachaireach Rua

    As an aside, Paddy Barnes has just claimed Ireland’s first medal, the shade of which TBC (with a bit of luck it’ll be gold. SFAIK, he’s beaten all the remaing fighters he could face) Congratulations and here’s hoping for the other two boxers in the QFs

    Dowtcha, Paddy biy

  • An Ceilleachaireach Rua

    UmH

    Hmmm, Olympic medals versus political, social and economic freedom. Tough choice that alright…

  • Dewi

    Wales joint 16th in medal table Ain’t the Western Mail totally impartial??? What’s “Houvenaghel” anyway? Ulster – Dutch?

  • Ulsters my homeland

    “[i]Hmmm, Olympic medals versus political, social and economic freedom. Tough choice that alright…”[/i]

    LoL. The Irish are only starting to gain political freedom and that has been a result of greater co-operation with mainland Britain. The same with social freedom as they’re becoming more tollerant of other cultures and religions. Economic freedom?? LOL

  • Dec

    Did no one feed you your milk this morning?

    Ball not man please, Mick. Yellow card.

  • An Ceilleachaireach Rua

    UmH

    I beg your pardon? We’ve had pretty much all of the above since 1922 and as any observer of Ireland’s commonwealth and UN negotiating positions will tell you we excercised quite a degree of political freedom. Frank Aitken’s tenure in NY especially.

    So then, Paddy Barnes. A fine Ulsterman under the tricolour, what, what?

    Apparently it’s his homeland too

  • Greagoir O’ Frainclin

    I think we have to put things into perspective here. Our ‘wee country’ Ireland has a population of 4 and a half million, so we are limited from the start. Funding and facilities for athletes is not as abundant as GB. The superb performance of Team GB team at the mo comes from the increased funding from the lottery over the past few years.

    Remember too, that GB is still a big gun in world politics, it might not have it’s empire, but it is still a big gun. With this ‘responsibility’ comes the desire to be seen as the best in the world at everything. It’s the old story of nations trying to out do each other, they can’t wage wars with each other anymore so the new battle field is the sports arena. Hence the medal tallies of the USA V USSR during the Cold War.

    When one says Team GB, is it really Team England?

    Well done to Paddy Barnes from Belfast who has secured a Bronze for Ireland. And I’m sure UMH and the like were cheering on a fellow Ulsterman!

    Erin abú

  • Mick Fealty

    Indeed dec. Indeed.

  • An Ceilleachaireach Rua

    Gregóir,

    just so. Still, it would be to assume levels of loftiness that are beyond most people with a pulse to say that seeing “your” athlete on the top rung with attendant flags/anthems isn’t quite the thrill.

    Just one gold would probably do us with maybe a few silvers and a bronzes thrown in for seasoning. As has been pointed out; even that would be punching above our population weight in a rather fine style. Nonetheless, the boxers have acquited themselves well irrespective of what happens next.

  • Mick Fealty

    Good man Paddy! The difference between Gold and Bronze is 40th versus 68th place according to the current official tables.

    Britain has just bagged another couple of golds, making the total 15. Consolidates third place ten behind the US.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    “[i]beg your pardon? We’ve had pretty much all of the above since 1922 and as any observer of Ireland’s commonwealth and UN negotiating positions will tell you we excercised quite a degree of political freedom.”[/i]

    Pity you didn’t practice what you preach and state Ulster has the same right as the Republic. Hypocrites

  • An Ceilleachaireach Rua

    UmH

    What right is that pray? I’m afraid you didn’t signpost your diversion very well…

  • The Raven

    “I think it would be a waste of Irish taxpayers (or Lotto players’) money to invest in something that will be of no practical benefit to the Ireland. It is better to invest in sports as a social benefit rather than as the form of nationalism that the Olympics represent.”

    Micro funding means you can invest in the person who shows talent rather than huge swathes of sport development funding. For a small nation like the Republic, it seems obvious that the need is to focus on the “talent scouts” and then the individual talent. Would it really be that dear in the scheme of things…?

  • Dec

    Mick

    You’re right Mick. I was clearly over-sensitive in being irked with Curran’s patrician and exclusive cheer-leading of local British boys and gals. That he didn’t find time to make one mention of Belfast’s Paddy Barnes (who was hotly tipped for the medal he guaranteed today) was clearly a genuine oversight and not the result of any bias on Curran’s part. I’m sure if Paddy Barnes was boxing for Team GB, Curran would just have studiously ignored him.

  • An Ceilleachaireach Rua

    Dec,

    perhaps Curran isn’t a fan of boxing?

  • RepublicanStones

    The Olympics for the likes of GB is really about keeping up with the Jones’. Its vanity which has countries (and amalgamations of countries) worrying about their position on the medals table. Team GB is far better funded than the Irish team. I heard Ireland sent only around 50 competitors, which considering the funding needed for the larger teams, to spend more money to send more longshots at medals when said money could be invested elsewhere where it is needed, would be foolish. But perhaps if the money was invested at grassroots level, those odds would come down a bit. Anway its a pity the TKD at the olympics is the WTF variety as we would have a good few prospects if it was ITF.

  • It was Sammy McNally what done it

    Britain has done brilliantly – given the range of sport they take part in and the fact that football and rugby and cricket must use up so much talent.

    But have to admit to wanting the Aussies to catch them up – this anti-Australian thing has got to be kept under control and if they do catch them up jingoistic Englezes can console themselves that the frogs are miles behind.

    Cant help but be suspicious of the cyclists – as a rule if something suddenly changes in a performance sport there may be some pop involved – but leaving aside such negative thoughts I am delighted with the Welsh/Kaydiff cycling performance.

    As for the Padz – it is fantastic to see someone from Non Iron( irrespective of which side of rhe fence they are from ) representing and being sucessful for Ireland. But I think Paddy is up against the hot favourite from China in the semis.

  • Dave

    “Remember too, that GB is still a big gun in world politics, it might not have it’s empire, but it is still a big gun. With this ‘responsibility’ comes the desire to be seen as the best in the world at everything. It’s the old story of nations trying to out do each other, they can’t wage wars with each other anymore so the new battle field is the sports arena. Hence the medal tallies of the USA V USSR during the Cold War.”

    Really? When did that happen? All three countries you cited are currently engaged in wars.

  • Dec

    ACR

    perhaps Curran isn’t a fan of boxing?

    Yes, I considered that but I just kept coming back to the relevance, Ed’s favourite sports aside) of a hotly-tipped Belfast Olympic athlete (the only one?) to a story about Northern Irish Olympic athletes in the Belfast Telegraph.

  • Fergus

    West Belfast “Togo has won a medal for Gods sake.”

    Yes, that was in the kayak slalom. But that guy lives and trains in France, a strong canoe-kayak slalom country. Eoin Rheinisch (RoI) came fourth in that event, very close, could be someone to watch in 2012. Pity about Campbell Walsh (UK/Scotland) and Fiona Pennie (UK/Scotland) who were both good medal hopes. It only takes one mistake in this sport and you’re screwed.

    My take is that countries like Ireland and the UK should develop and invest in sport to improve everyone’s health and improve our quality of life, rather than concentrating on Olympic medals. Much as I like to see kayak and canoe slalom medals from these islands, as a kayaker myself (well past competition age) it is the general development of the sport that should be promoted. More whitewater facilities to suit all paddlers, not just Olympic class ones (there can be conflicts over facilities when they are in short supply), better access to rivers (terrible in England). Medals may of course follow.

    Eoin Rheinsich misses out on bronze

    Proposed changes to HPP whitewater course

    River access campaign

  • It was Sammy McNally what done it

    I wonder if there is a law, which I have just violated, perhaps called Badwins Law which is is the equivalent of Goodwins re. mentioning the Nazis that sooner or later in any discussion of the Olympics someone will mention the quarestuff that the contestants might be using?

  • Mick Fealty

    Can I suggest to those of you who want to use this thread for personal grievances, that you simply take it somewhere else and leave the discussion to those who actually care about the issues raised. Adds: No harm dec. You’ve called Ed on that, it’s egg on the face if Paddy goes two further and picks up a gold. But can we do sport rather than media bias for once?

    Part of my concern is raised by the lack of support that Irish athletes receive. In addition to the coaching failures I suggest above, there is also turning up to the Games with the wrong swimming goggles, or turning up 5/6 hours late for the rowing.

    Now those may be just the kind of things that only get picked up by journalists when there are actually relatively few competitors to follow and a lot of broadcast time to fill. But I doubt many of the competitors in larger are left quite so high and dry by their own organisations.

  • ulsterfan

    Mick

    Turning up late is not new to this Olympiad.
    Do you recall about 20 years ago the two American sprinters both hot favourites missed their heats and were disqualified because they got their dates wrong and were days late.

  • Yes, I considered that but I just kept coming back to the relevance, Ed’s favourite sports aside) of a hotly-tipped Belfast Olympic athlete (the only one?) to a story about Northern Irish Olympic athletes in the Belfast Telegraph.

    It’s not Curran’s fault that some Northern Irish athletes elect to compete for a foreign country. 🙂

    Mick many Irish athletes receive a great deal of money and support. Alan Campbell or Wendy Houvenaghel for example.

  • percy

    Mick,
    Ireland is very introverted on this.
    They play football, rugby and then this strange cross-mix game, and seem happy as pigs in muck to get on with it.

    I think if the country were united we’d see vast improvements in self-esteem and success in Rugby and Football.
    Its sad, but when your history is one of being shat on by your neighbour, why bother trying to be posh…. where’s my morning saucer of milk –meooww 😉

    Individually there’s nothing to stop irish athletes from pursuing their dream, but they probably have to train away from Ireland.

    Best thing is for the two football teams to come together, perhaps something for simpson, DCAL, to consider after the maze staduim decision.

    Remember George Best’s wish

  • It was Sammy McNally what done it

    Chekov,

    “Northern Irish athletes elect to compete for a foreign country”

    I presume you realise that line works both ways.

    Anybody got a good informative link to Paddy Barnes boxing club?

  • Paddy Matthews

    As far as the goggles are concerned, it could happen to the most successful competitor at the games, but I suppose any opportunity to take a swipe at the Mexicans will do.

    The IABA seem to have done a good job with the funding available to them, with one medallist so far and another two quarter-finalists still to come this week. Other sports should observe and hopefully learn.

    The other Olympic sport where we’ve traditionally been competitive internationally is show-jumping, but four years of internecine feuding has done a lot of damage there.

    And BTW, Mick, does your description of Wendy (McClean) Houvenhagel as coming from “Co Derry” mean that Pete Baker will have to try to squeeze in a couple of hundred “Londonderrys” into his next post to compensate?

  • Ms Wiz

    Dave

    ‘We’d clean up if only we played to our particular skills.’

    Drinking?

  • “I presume you realise that line works both ways.”

    In what respect? As far as I’m aware the only Northern Irish athletes who are not competing under the correct flag are those who have chosen to represent the Republic of Ireland. Certainly those competing in the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team are self-evidently competing in a team which represents their own country.

  • Mick Fealty

    Paddy, not sure what it’s like down Mexico way, but we don’t do ‘group think’ on Slugger!

  • An Ceilleachaireach Rua

    Ms Wiz

    Drinkin’
    Fightin’ (bare knuckle, natch)
    Hoorin’
    Walkin’ (one for those of our Northern Brethren who eschew the above)

    To paraphrase Kent Brockman: Are these the activities we associate with the Irish?

  • Mick Fealty

    Again Chekov, point made. Now can we stick with sport rather than politics?

  • Mike

    Dewi –

    Her husband is Dutch.

    Mick –

    Have to say I’m disappointed that this thread is the first mention of Wendy Houvenaghel’s achievement. It’s not every day that a Northern Irish sportsperson reaches an Olympic final or wins an Olympic silver medal.

  • An Ceilleachaireach Rua

    For those interested, Kenny Egan just won his QF so that’s another bronze at least. A good day for Irish boxing North and South

  • It was Sammy McNally what done it

    Chekov,

    Non Iron athletes competing for Great Britian are a bit like athletes from Hong Kong competing for Great Britian before they gave it back to China. Only teasing you really. … but you did ask.

    Presuming the cyclists are not on the pop (Badwins no 2) then it looks like a good sport for the Padz to concentrate on as we have some a good record with it – they could start by poaching the British coach ( in the true Olympian spirit) and developing facilities for 2012 although thinking about it the Irish chappies in cycling were allegedly not averse to the pop themselves(Badwins no 3).

    Have the Aussies caught up yet? Any mention of the Ashes yet.

  • Finn McCool

    When is this waste of money over? (China would do well to remember how many poor people it has) no internet radio etc due to paranoid commies?

  • Suilven

    For those who are more enquiring than to pass off the RoI’s performance as a function merely of population or finance, some clues as to the off-track politics can be found in this article:

    http://www.independent.ie/sport/other-sports/olympics-2008/irish-news/hession-lifts-irish-gloom-as-he-sparkles-in-beijing-1458495.html

    As an adjunct, and at the risk of reintroducing politics, Kevin Myers make some interesting (if somewhat overblown) observations on the Team GB name here:

    http://www.independent.ie/opinion/columnists/kevin-myers/olympic-team-name-is-a-telling-sign-of-lsquogbrsquo-political-dynamics-1458487.html

  • An Ceilleachaireach Rua

    Suliven,

    I reckon this probably merits a thread of it’s own to be frank. Did…did I just read an article by KEVIN MYERS advocating a UI???

    Apologies Mick if this is raising matters outside the scope of this discusion (and as I’ve said, I’d be happy to discuss it elsewhere) but bloody hell…

  • Paddy Matthews

    Suilven:

    The fall-back in Irish performances in track and field (particularly at middle-distance events) has been stark, but has been a long-term problem which was obscured while Sonia was still doing her thing. Having said that, how do you avoid references to Badwin’s Law when dealing with athletics these days?

    Boxing is the area which has progressed most sharply in terms of good organisation over the last four years, which is why other sports should observe and learn. But administrative politics in other sporting organisations (OCI vs. some of the federations) would need to be sorted out.

    ACR:

    Kevin Myers has decided that GB is irretrievably on its way to rule by Osama bin Laden thanks to the teeming turbaned hordes, and that therefore it’s in the interests of Norn Iron to join hands with the south in a common vision of a Muslim-free, African-free utopia. Utterly bonkers, but then he always was.

  • It was Sammy McNally what done it

    The quareone who won Britian’s 16th gold medal was banned for missing 3 pop tests (Badwins No 4). You have to wonder if taking pop ( Badwins No 5) will become a bit like professionalism – it will be resisted but in the end they will have to throw in the towel.

    re. the boy Myers: I have to say that although a massive fan – that wasnt his best bit of work, but perhaps he’s trying to get thrown out of the Indo for suggesting the heresy of a UI in order to go back to the Times.

  • Suilven

    Sammy,

    Would it be bad(win) of me to dredge up Michelle Smith/de Brun and Cian O’Connor’s oul nag?

  • Mick Fealty

    The Myers thread is here now. Please take all of that stuff there, if you please?

    Paddy,

    Any thoughts on improving funding streams? Big claims are being made for micro funding of individuals in the UK press , which I’m sceptical of only regarding the extent of their impact.

  • The way that Britain has moved from being so irrelevant that it wasn’t even a joke to world beating, largely through the efforts of Chris Boardman, relentless focus on finding and headhunting talent, and brilliant application of technology is one of the great untold stories of sport. And this is coming from someone who doesn’t really find God Save the Queen floats his boat… Look at the way Emma Pooley was rapidly streamed into the elite stream after taking up cycling in her early 20s because she had the physical and mental strength, directed towards road racing, and then had a special bike built for her to overcome her lack of weight on the downhill sections.

    Cycling could be a logical place to start building a medal base, but the talent base has faltered dramatically since the days of Roche and Kelly, and the Brits have a real machine going. Boxing might be better? We’re actually good at it to start with, we continue to produce plenty of talent for the pros and none of the other big sporting powers takes it all that seriously really.

    I’d also like contesting to become an Olympic sport before I get too much older so I get the chance to represent Ireland at the Olympics. 😉

  • Paddy Matthews

    Suilven:

    Fair’s fair – I don’t think any of us have objections to She Who Pisses Whiskey (allegedly, m’lud) or Cian’s schizophrenic steed getting an outing. Sudden improvements in individual or national performance are always likely to raise legitimate questions and deserve answers.

    To be fair to UK Athletics, the quare wan referred to by Sammy above had to take them to court to be allowed to compete and they successfully stopped Dwain Chambers from getting to Beijing.

    She was followed this afternoon by Bahrain’s first Olympic track gold. Bahrain (along with their neighbours Qatar) have achieved sporting success through the simple expedient of buying up east and north African athletes en masse, and giving them a quick respray and rename job. One doesn’t have to even invoke Badwin’s law to be cynical about Olympic medals at the moment.

  • RepublicanStones

    Is there any data pertaining to how Ireland performs compared to countries of similar population size and GDP etc? Just like boxing you fight in your weight category, no point in looking at the USA or China and thinking what if?

  • It was Sammy McNally what done it

    Suilven,

    I think that the Irish Nation’s healthy disregard for all rules should not be confused with the skullduggery so prevalent in other countries and particualrly with that of our largest neigbour. Shame on you.

    Now where the feck are those Australians when they are needed?

  • Paddy Matthews

    To be fair to UK Athletics, the quare wan referred to by Sammy above

    This being S. McNally rather than S. Morse…

    I’d agree with Sammy about boxing. They seem to have been willing to import coaches from abroad and to provide serious backing to a squad of competitors. If the showjumpers could have their heads knocked together that might be another opportunity for results (the individual entrant that we were able to send is doing well at the moment).

    Looking at the medal table, with two definite medals so far and possibilities of another one or two, we’re not notably out of line with most European countries of our size. Britain is the country having an exceptionally good performance…

  • Largely agreed Paddy, but we’re rich and have an enormous diaspora, so we really ought to be doing much better than most European countries of our size. Not too many Plastic Danes out there in Britain, North America or Australia, are there?

    I’ve just reread by dyslexic post above, and I was specifically talking about the transformation of British cycling led by Chris Boardman, which really is one of the great untold stories of how to succeed at sport.

    I take your point about Bahrain and Qatar, but to be fair how well would Britain or France do without athletes, especially on the track, who were either themselves born in Africa and the Caribbean or are the children of people who were?

  • Paddy Matthews

    Sammy (Morse):

    Largely agreed Paddy, but we’re rich and have an enormous diaspora, so we really ought to be doing much better than most European countries of our size

    Most of our “enormous diaspora” have gone past the point of being eligible for Irish passports. We do have a few Plastics – Alistair Cragg (born in South Africa), the female triathlete the other night – but we don’t seem to aggressively chase potential passport-holders in other sports to the extent that the FAI do in soccer.

    I take your point about Bahrain and Qatar, but to be fair how well would Britain or France do without athletes, especially on the track, who were either themselves born in Africa and the Caribbean or are the children of people who were?

    Not a valid comparison – the British and French athletes live in those countries, whereas the Bahrainis and Qataris are simply importing athletes with no previous connection to their states, renaming them in the process. It’s a real-life counterpart to the “Berzerkistan Olympic squad” storyline running in Doonesbury for the last few weeks.

  • Speaking of athletes bought by Qatar, given his surname could we make Saif Shaheen an Irishman?

  • Dewi

    “Rebecca Romero, the only British athelete to have won gold in two different sports.”

    That made me wake up. Would be truly astounding if true – but she only got a silver in the rowing in Athens so very close but no cigar.

  • Dewi

    Nice letter in yesterdays’s Independent:

    “Aren’t the number of Olympic medals awarded to swimming disproportionate? For athletics to even it up, I think medals should be awarded at 100, 200, 400 and 800 metres: for free-style running, crawling, hopping and running backwards.”

    John Rathbone, Birmingham

  • Reader

    It was Sammy: The quareone who won Britian’s 16th gold medal was banned for missing 3 pop tests
    – while passing 6 pop tests over the same period.

  • It was Sammy McNally what done it

    Reader,

    To paraphrase one of Irelands favourite gay sons most quoted lines – To miss one pop test may be regarded as a misfortune, to miss 2 looks like carelessness and to miss 3 looks like….

    Badwin’s law No.5

    Another Irish boxer to bully off soon – but Paddy Power has the quare-fellah from Venezuela as firm favorite.

    No sign of those feckin Aussies.

  • Greenflag

    I’ve not been following the Olympics as much as most here but I’m amazed to look at the medal count and see Britain ahead not only of Australia , but Germany , France , Italy ?

    SWUD (Sporting World Upside Down)

    Looking closer at the results it seems Cycling , Sailing , Rowing , Canoe , Swimming make up 95% of the total to date .

    For me the performance of young Rebecca Adlington from Nottingham – winning 2 Gold medals for swimming is the best individual performance to date . She’s the first Briton to win a medal in swimming in 48 years ?

    I saw her interview and lets face it getting up for several years at 5.00 am to train shows a determination to win that deserves the medals she won.

    Seems like Britain picked the right strategy for an island country with lots of rainfall 🙂 all those water sport medals being proof.

    With the next Olympics in London this British performance in Beijing should be a great encouragement to those who will reach their ‘prime’ in 2012.

  • Greagoir O’ Frainclin

    And Darren Sutherland has won another Bronze Medal for Ireland in the boxing. So we have 3 bronze medals so far. Good going by our ‘Wee Country’.

  • Greagoir O’ Frainclin

    She’s the first Briton to win a medal in swimming in 48 years ?

    Na, I think Adrian Moorehouse won a gold medal for GB back in the 80’s.

  • George

    Great Britain won a couple of bronze medals in swimming in Athens four years ago for a start.

  • kensei

    Not as Tom Humphries perceptively points out, by confusing “an ole-ole-ole tradition with a sporting culture.”

    “Perceptive”? Disgraceful comment and weakens your entire piece. Perhaps Munster should be informed they only have an “ole ole” culture. Perhaps too the footballers of Kerry or Tyrone, or the hurlers of Kilkenny. It’s a fuckwit comment anyway, because the “ole ole” culture helped boost soccer here. If you cannot generate enthusiasm, you sure as hell can’t generate success.

    There are a few points here:

    1. Ireland is and always will be limited by a small pool of talent, and the opportunity cost of the talent going to rugby or soccer or the GAA is much worse in a small country. Even with huge amounts of money, could Ireland produce the number of cyclists the UK did, where success starts breeding success? I sincerely doubt it.

    2. In Britain the Olympics medal table was held up as a symbol of national decline, particularly with the 1 gold in the 1996 games. There is no such attitude in Ireland and we should not be starting one.

    3. Part of how GB has gotten success is by ruthlessly targeting areas which other major countries consider lower priority. Fair play to them, they’ve done brilliantly at it. I’m not sure it’s a good idea for Ireland: we could try something similar but is it better to build a National Indoor Cycling centre or to invest in track and field games at schools even if we have to wait 40 years between medals?

    Saying that, Ireland does have a high performance programme and save for boxing hasn’t really delivered. It should be looked at without necessarily spending much more money.

    4. Comparing performance of NI athletes in the GB and Ireland team is ridiculous. First up, they are 15 times the size. In team sports such as rowing, you have far better odds of getting better partners. People who miss the GB team might try for Ireland’s. Most Olympic sports offer scant rewards and most sports are more individualistic. Most people will take their chances with the best team they can get, even if they might choose otherwise if things were equal.

    5. Just to reinforce the talent point: Ireland does have some Olympic pedigree in amateur boxing. It’s been 16 years between medals.

    Still can’t get over that comment Mick. God awful.