Job search
Job Search

Have your say

Have you got a view on the state of the sports sector? A topic you want to discuss? An opinion on an article featured in Sports Management? Write to us at: [email protected]

Published in Sports Management Sep Oct 2017 issue 133

Obsession with medals has become unhealthy

David Pond,

Chief Executive,

Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby

UK Sport tells the industry that we need more Olympic and Paralympic medals because this inspires the nation to take part in sport and exercise. The data on this is far from conclusive. The 2016 Sport England Active Lives Survey shows that rates of weekly sports participation in England have fallen since 2012. This is particularly true for ethnic minorities, disadvantaged socioeconomic groups and people with disabilities.

The question of how to inspire individuals to regularly take part in physical activity is too complex an issue to be solved simply by achieving 67 medals (GB’s Olympic medal tally 2016) rather than 65 (2012). Different people are inspired by different things. While medals may inspire some, others will instead be inspired by human stories of struggle and triumph.

Inspiring stories
Stuart Robinson was on patrol in Afghanistan when his vehicle hit a landmine and he was blown into the air, losing his legs and suffering other life-changing injuries. His journey took him from battlefield operating theatre to GB wheelchair rugby squad.

Chris Ryan, a top junior professional golfer, broke his neck in a car accident and instantly saw his golfing career disappear. A quadriplegic, he is now the captain of the GB wheelchair rugby team.

These stories are the torches that ignite our humanity, and are not constrained by wealth, race, colour, age, gender or sexual orientation, and yet UK Sport has declined to fund such sports on the basis they have less medal potential than other sports.

Redefining winning
UK Sport CEO Liz Nicholl says “we know what it costs to win” – but cost is about more than just money and winning is about more than just medals. There is a human cost to disabled athletes who receive, on average, £400 per month in benefits to live, who find it near impossible to get a job and who, without support, struggle with day-to-day living, let alone with trying to be an elite athlete. For these people, simply being able to compete is a win, and this in itself is inspiring.

It’s natural that as a nation we should want to be successful. But the obsession with medal tally has, at best, become unhealthy and, at worst, ugly. In a time when we should be increasingly wary of widening the socio-economic divide, many of the sports that received the most funding for Tokyo – such as sailing (£26m), equestrian (£15.3m) and rowing (£32.1m) – are not sports that are accessible to the average British citizen.

We need to take a hard look at our priorities as a nation, and decide whether it’s the overall medal tally that inspires people, or the stories and personal triumphs that are showcased across a wide variety of sports.

Stories of human struggle and triumph can be more inspiring than medals / © Lynne Cameron/PA Archive/PA Images
Stories of human struggle and triumph can be more inspiring than medals/ © Lynne Cameron/PA Archive/PA Images
Sign up for FREE ezines
Sports jobs

Sales, Marketing and Retention Manager

University of Leeds
Salary: £37,099 - £44,263pa + generous pension + benefits
Location: Leeds, UK

Exercise Referral Instructor

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Saltburn-by-the-Sea

Epping Forest Keeper (countryside Ranger)

City of London Corporation
Salary: £35,663 - £39,805pa + Local Govt Pension + benefits
Location: Loughton, UK

Aquatics Officer - dual site

Brio Leisure
Salary: from £29,269pa
Location: Northwich, UK

Fitness Manager

Everyone Active
Location: Bristol

Climbing Activities and Wellbeing Coordinator

Everyone Active
Location: Winchester

Strategic Manager Leisure Partnerships and Health

Swansea Council
Salary: £53,653 – £58,089pa
Location: Swansea, UK

Centre Manager - dual site

Brio Leisure
Salary:  £35,745pa + excellent benefits
Location: Ellesmere Port, UK

Centre Manager - dual site

Brio Leisure
Salary: £35,745pa + excellent benefits
Location: Chester, UK
recruiting with sports management

Activity & Wellbeing Leader

Everyone Active
Location: Stratford-upon-Avon

Chief Executive Officer

Redbridge Sports & Leisure
Salary: on request
Location: Barkingside, Ilford, UK

Swimming Teacher

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive rates of pay
Location: Rickmansworth, UK

Swimming Teacher

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive rates of pay
Location: Watford, UK
Swimming Teacher jobs  duty manager jobs  Team Leader jobs  Swim Manager jobs  general manager jobs  recreation assistant jobs 
More jobs

Company profile

Company profile: Serco Leisure
Serco Leisure Operating Limited is one of the UK’s leading national operators of leisure centres, destination venues and elite sporting facilities.
View full profile >
More company profiles

Featured Supplier

CoverMe Fitness launches in Australian market
CoverMe Fitness, the studio management app for the fitness industry, has launched in Australia, with industry veteran Tony Zonato as managing director for the region.
View full details >
More featured suppliers

Property & Tenders

Location: Cleveland Lakes, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire
Company: Cotswold Lakes Trust
Location: Loughton, IG10
Company: Knight Frank
Location: Grantham, Leicestershire
Company: Belvoir Castle
Location: Hall Place House, Bexley, DA5 1PQ
Company: London Borough of Bexley
Location: 15 Concessions across the nation's forests
Company: Forestry England
More properties & tenders

Diary dates

03-05 Sep 2024
IMPACT Exhibition Center, Bangkok, Thailand
08-10 Sep 2024
Wyndham® Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs™ Resort, Lake Buena Vista, United States
19-19 Sep 2024
The Salil Hotel Riverside - Bangkok, Bangkok 10120, Thailand
20-22 Sep 2024
Locations worldwide,
More diary dates