Monday, 27 June 2016

Rio Olympics 2016: Why the Games should matter to each and every one of us

THIRTY eight days to go. For the 450 athletes in the Australian Olympic and Paralympic teams, the clock is ticking.

The Olympic Games is the biggest sporting event in the world. With more than 200 countries represented, 5800 media accreditations, a TV audience exceeding 3.5 billion viewers, not including social media, the eyes of the world will be on the athletes and that’s an extraordinary pressure.

But it’s worth it as the Olympics are the Everest of sport. They’re important for Australia because you can argue that sport is woven into our DNA. It is the glue within our community. Our kids need to be able to dream and to aspire. They need role models.

Australia’s swimmers will focus on the preparation and the process to avoid getting overwhelmed by Olympic competition and to try to improve our gold medal chances like Melanie Schlanger, Alicia Coutts Brittany Elmslie and Cate Campbell in London in 2012.

Swimming Australia is focused on one important statistic. Globally, only 20 per cent of swimmers achieve a personal best at the Olympics compared with 80 per cent at their own Olympic trials. Why? How do we change that?

The answer would appear to be the sum of many parts. The fact that the athletes have at last “made it” – they are now Olympians. Then there is the sheer enormity of the event, the confusion and distraction of the athletes’ village. The noise, the people, the adulation.

To change the success ratio Swimming Australia is focusing only on “peak performances”. We won’t be speculating on the medal count – that’s for those outside our “bubble”. We do it for one simple reason: it takes the pressure off. Motivation is no problem. Our athletes are already prepared to give everything.

The challenge for them is overcoming the intimidating environment that is the Olympic Games.

So we’re in the business of forgetting about the consequences of winning or losing after years of blood, sweat and tears. The desire to win and fear of losing can be all-consuming when they are, in fact, irrelevant and counter productive.

So what do we do? We focus on the preparation and the process; on the leadership from within, and our values. If every team member achieved a personal best when it really counts, we would be happy.

And we want every team member to be accountable to each other and to acknowledge and live by our values. The strength of this team will come down to mutual trust and respect. Because the Olympics is very much a team effort. Our athletes and coaches feed off each other; gain strength from each other.

Our Olympians are dream builders. For most, there is no real money in Olympic sports, they dream of performing higher, going further and faster because they have a passion.

Behind every Olympian is a team, starting with parents who have scrimped and saved, coaches and support staff. It is like an iceberg: the athlete is at the top but is supported by a solid mass of expertise and dedication.

I have never met a world champion who is a normal person. You have to be different to do extraordinary things on the greatest stage.

As for our swim team, we have yet to be fully proof-tested. That can only happen in Rio.

But if we can deliver on our promise, I believe many of our children will watch and think “if they can do it, maybe I can do it”. Not just in sport, but in life.

That is why the Olympics are important.

1 comment:

  1. Well after the world Cup, isn't that exactly what a lot of Brazilians rightfully before hosting Rio Olympics 2016?I'm sure the Olympics will be an event to remember, just like the WC was and this should be hosted by other progressive countries, but lasting changes and improvements would probably be a lot more helpful than a few weeks in the international limelight.