18 August 2008

Australia and Medals

Originally posted at American Thinker.

A look at the medal count (as of Monday morning, 18 August) shows a predictable one-two at the top. China, with its 1.3 billion people, has garnered 65 medals including 37 gold medals. That’s one medal for every 20 million people. The US, with not even a quarter of China’s population, has won 66 medals. That’s one medal for every 4.6 million people. That is pretty impressive. But even more impressive is Australia. With a population of approximately 20 million, Australia has won 33 medals, with an even spread across gold, silver, and bronze. That’s one medal for every 606,060 people.

One might wonder how Australia produces so many world caliber athletes. From my time there, I am of the opinion that Australia’s success can be tacked to the country’s love for sport. The country supports three different rugby – or footie – leagues. Cricket soccer leagues flourish. There’s even a professional ice hockey league!

But it’s not the nation’s support of professional leagues that makes them an international powerhouse in sport. From my time living there, I can say (though only though anecdotal evidence) that Australians are one of the most athletically enthusiastic people on earth. There are leagues everywhere; games, especially on the weekends, are ubiquitous. Pitches seem to sprout here and there in all cities and towns. And the leagues are not just for the athletically adept, necessarily. They appear to be for everyone. And even if one doesn’t want to participate in the speed of footie, there’s always lawn bowls, greens for which occupy clubs all over the country.

I must admit that I never had the courage to venture onto an Australian pitch for a game. My fear of seeming like the dumb American prevented me (though I’m sure that even if I had made a fool out of myself, the Aussies would have made great jokes about it with me, not at me).

Australia’s is a culture of sport. Everyone can have a “fair go” of it; all one has to do is step up. Perhaps if the US could incorporate more of this attitude into its culture, we would be more successful not just as a country, but also as individuals. Sometimes it seems that the US (and our government) has relegated the “fair go” doctrine to the sidelines in favor of guaranteed equality of outcome. But in truth, not everyone can win, not everyone can succeed. Better to give equal opportunity for those who desire it to step up to the plate, to use a more American metaphor. If and when they fail, they can dust themselves off, get up, and go to the plate again. This idea seems to have served the Aussies well in sport. It could serve the US well in many aspects in which the expectation of equality of outcome limits success.

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