What Makes A Country Into A Sporting Giant?

This year sees the Beijing Olympics take place in august. The sporting world will be a buzz of anticipation as it waits to see who will win the major sporting medals and what stories or triumph over adversity will surface. Hopefully this version of the Olympics will be free from the drug scandals that seem to go hand in hand with all major sporting events nowadays and hopefully countries and athletes will be able to leave their political points of view behind them to give us the best possible Olympics, one remembered for events on and around the track rather than off it. No doubt we will have the same countries competing for the lion’s share of the medals with a few success stories from athletes from the smaller countries. But forgetting about the odd sports person that goes against the grain what is it that makes certain countries better at sports and athletics than other countries.

Different countries approach sporting events in different ways, for instance the former Eastern Bloc countries of East Germany and USSR felt that it was in the political interest of their country to try to be seen to be supremely good at athletics to show that they were stronger nations than the U.S.A. Of course the truth about these countries came out some years later when it was discovered that their athletes were part of a performance enhancing drug program.

The U.S.A and the larger, more developed countries of the world have better facilities as well as getting children involved in sport from an earlier age. Many countries in Europe and America hold after school clubs for certain sports that help to develop sporting skills in children from a very early age, helping them to develop a sporting awareness, a competitive edge as well as helping to keep them fit, active and have an interest in sport. But there are some countries that take this one step further still by taking promising children out of main stream school and educating them at a sporting academy that will not only give them an education but also help them to develop their skills at their chosen sport under the guidance of qualified coaches.

One such country that has reaped the rewards of sporting academies is Australia, a country of approximately 21m people who regularly turns out better sports men and women than countries that are much larger and have a better sporting history such as the U.K the has a population in excess of 60m people. Australia is now seen as a country of sportsmen and women, at each Olympics they seem to provide another set of new and up-coming medal winners who take their sport by storm. Granted the weather in Australia is favourable for sports, the nice weather lends itself to being outside and taking part in some sort of activity whereas being in a country like Great Britain in November when it is cold, dark and wet does not lend itself to anything other than being indoors. Certain areas of Australia are perfect to all year round training and these areas generally attract a lot of interest from the sports academies, areas such as Warrnambool in Victoria offer the perfect climate and terrain for many sports. So the weather does play a large part in helping to develop sports men and women but the sports academies in Australia also teach the basics of nutrition and the concept of fitness to their students so they understand how to treat their bodies to help them get the maximum performance out of them.

The Australia sport academy plan focuses mainly of swimming, athletics, rugby, cricket and cycling, all of which are sports that Australia has excelled in the past 15 years. This is not a coincidence, this has been a carefully planned program to ensure that they get the very best possible results from the athletes that they have, and it has worked. From a very early age Australians are taught the opposite of children from other countries, it is bad to lose and it is good to win. How they go about teaching this in a dignified manner is something that only Australians will know, all I can say is that you never see an Australian who is a bad loser, just ones that do not like losing and enjoy winning.

So it appears that as far as smaller nations go Australia have got it just about right by having the ideal weather for sports training, the sports academy Australia set up is pretty unique in the way they teach children an aspiring athletes about the winning ethic as well as about the human body and diet and the way Australians view sport as a whole, which is that it is something to be enjoyed but you try your best to win as second best is not in the Australian mentality.

So let’s all look forward to a good scandal free Olympics in which athletes from the smaller countries can try their best to dethrone the reigning Olympic champions from the bigger more powerful sporting nations.