Wednesday, March 22, 2006

No haka for 4th place (or medals either)

The New Zealand Herald front page banner headline this morning paints a grim picture of our commonwealth games effort.
22 Fourth places, 5 days to go and only 16 medals so far – Sport and Recreation NEW Zealand (SPARC or SARNZ for us purists) predicted 46 medals. The odds don’t look good.
Is this a big deal? Something we should have a government inquiry into? (which is all the rage these days) Shall we fire the CEO of SARNZ? (I am all about firing underperforming CEOs) or should we fire all the athletes and start afresh?

It seems that nobody has a clear idea of how to treat sportspeople and how to manage our spending on sportspeople in New Zealand. Hopefully this will be the topic of conversation when our athletes get back.
As far as I can see it, if you are professional you are judged as such. The team can hire and fire you at will. But what if you are not a professional, if you don’t have a sponsor and if the New Zealand government pays for your development, what then?
What right do we, if any, have to expect anything from our athletes – as a collective?

Sport is about performance, and as we have not performed as a team to expectations and many New Zealanders will feel let down by this. Many will forgive and say “better luck next time” many will attack and talk about the "waste of time and money", some will feel sorry for the athletes and there will be some who blame the government.

What I would like to see is analysis of the collective benefit of sport; I would like it to be treated like art. Not something that everyone likes but it has value, not something that is always seen as successful but beneficial for cultural none the less.
I think we shy away from assessing the ‘soft’ worth of sport – we assume that it is there and it is often seen as blasphemous to attack it. But we should so that we can understand how to assess a performance like the one by our commonwealth games team so far.
We need to understand this better and that means asking tough questions and getting answers that may attack the core of what many see as being ‘kiwi’ – an unconditional love of sport.