Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Don't hold your breath

More on this business about class and sports, here is Freemania on the way that Britain's Olympics successes make the case for public investment.

Being a relentlessly positive son-of-a-bitch, I've really not wanted to piss on the collective sense of self-satisfaction that we're having at the moment, in third place in the medals table, but it has occured to me that most of the sports we seem to have done well in are ones that involve privileged access to equipment, and that it's not GBR that is doing so well as much as posh people within GBR.

Freemania is kinder to Boris Johnson that I could be. But at least he quotes him saying...

"Imagine if we stamped out the last vestige of the politically correct nonsense that for so long dominated the educational establishment, and militated against competitive sport, and its indispensable concepts of winning and losing."

This is the sort of parallel universe that Tory columnists (and he's not a Mayor yet in any real sense of the word) live in. One in which the poor prole serfs are oppressed by social workers and do-gooders, and not by a conspiracy of over-privileged inbreeds and useless bureaucrats. One in which they've had their competitive instincts forever quenched by bossy harridans.

Misdirection, that's what it is.

Kevin Harris here touches on one kind of investment that is needed, but that's not really enough, is it? A powerful sporting presence is not just the product of access to equipment. It isn't just a zeitgeisty thing that arises from a competitive ethos. It's about social capital. It's about a high level of civic involvement.

Living in a London suburb, I wouldn't take my kids to the local park looking for a game of football (or anything else) to get them involved in because it would involve a long walk through a traffic rat-run to a big empty unloved green space. GBR's Olympic success underlines the importance of social capital. Posh people have it in spades, and it's the product of a conscious - if carefully ringfenced - collective effort.

Maybe this is the sort of delusion that we lefties have, but I think that this has got worse (for the non-posh) as a result of the increased privatisation of public life.

This is what Boris needs to reverse. See these blue blokes down there? They're the one who have been holding their breath waiting for this to happen...

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