Leading article: Play to our strengths

Share
Related Topics

If we can't beat them then we should chose a different way to play the game. There may be optimism that, with the right financial support, Britain's athletes can, at the London Olympics, build on their extraordinary success in Beijing. But there is little doubt that, were we to try, we would probably fail to match China's perfectly choreographed, visually stunning, ambitiously scaled and staggeringly punctual 2008 Games.

It therefore makes perfect sense for the Olympics minister Tessa Jowell to float the idea of doing things rather differently. We must not try to emulate Beijing, she suggests, but we need to come up with new ways of thinking – perhaps by holding the opening and closing ceremonies across the whole of London rather than just in the main Olympic Stadium.

This must be more than necessity being the mother of invention, however. We need to identify our strengths and play to them. If corporate collectivism is the hallmark of China, ancient and modern, London needs to look to the innovative individualism that has shaped our national character. Making the Games feel more democratic, involving ordinary citizens more, is the right intuition there. After the big studio Olympics we need something humbler but altogether cleverer.

What we do not want is the slightly shambling whimsy of the London contribution at the Beijing. The instinct was right but the end result a bit too amateurish. Much the same can be said for the Prime Minister's plan for sport for all. As well as increased funding for elite athletes we need to improve the base of the nation's sporting pyramid with better facilities all round. So, again, it was welcome this week to hear Ms Jowell's boss, the Culture Secretary, Andy Burnham, announce an extra £30m for 4,000 new projects aimed at making the whole nation more active – especially since the £100m of private-sector funding for the run-up to 2012 may fail to materialise because of the credit crunch.

Getting Britain's schoolkids to do five hours' sport a week instead of two is a laudable aim. It would be good for health, for education, for crime prevention and much more. And funding is a real issue. In Beijing, Britain excelled at cycling, swimming, sailing – sports that, significantly perhaps, don't need a school playing field. It is also striking that schools with money for better facilities produce better sportsmen: private schools educate just 7 per cent of Britons and yet their former pupils won 45 per cent of Britain's medals at the past three Olympics. But it requires more than increased funding. It requires imagination. The Government can take the hordes to water but cannot make them into Rebecca Adlingtons. It can call for the London Games to be more sassy, but will the committees charged with the task produce only collapsing buses and old rockers?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SSRS Report Developer - Urgent Contract - London - £300pd

£300 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: SSRS Report Developer – 3 Mon...

KS1 Teacher

£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

HR Business Partner - Essex - £39,000 plus benefits

£32000 - £39000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Man...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Lord Mayor of London Fiona Woolf heads the inquiry  

Why should Fiona Woolf be expected to remember every dinner date?

Mark Steel
Several police officers walk near downtown Ottawa  

Nigel Farage on the Ottawa shooting: It could just as easily happen on the streets of London

Nigel Farage
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?