Posted by: daviemacdonald | August 31, 2012

Australia’s High Tide and Green Grass Olympics

High Tide and Green Grass

After the Olympics there was much ballyhoo about the lack of success our Athletes achieved at the Olympics. Much of the discussion out pouring was done from ignorance, arrogance and stupidity. As I will highlight below. This took a little time to put together but fortunately with the ParaOlympics now on it remains topical.

music“Experts were so stressed about the results I thought these Guys are all going to have a break down. Some days later going through some old records  I came across a  Rolling Stones recording of 19th Nervous Breakdown from the Album “High Tide and Green Grass” The video is right at the end of this post

You’re the kind of person

You meet at certain dismal dull affairs

Center of a crowd, talking much too loud

Running up and down the stairs

Well, it seems to me that you have seen

Too much in too few years

And though you’ve tried, you just can’t hide

Your eyes are edged with tears

You better stop, a-look around

When you were a child, you were treated kind

But you were never brought up right

A-you were always spoiled with a thousand toys

But still you cried all night

I thought I had missed with this article  given that last Wednesday our young people returned home and this Thursday the Para Olympics began I decided to set out my thoughts on Australia’s Olympic results and put some perspective to it.

football and other sportThe key endeavour of any activity be it sport or otherwise is not so much to measure by the “winning”  but by the courage of participating and often handling the terrible disappointment of the so-called “failure” Why is it we Australians have to be so ungracious in defeat?

The young people who we in Australia seem to think failed us so miserably  might have been your boy, daughter or teenager or if I were younger brother sister…or someone else’s son or daughter. Yes we are talking young  teenagers or very young adults who just have to be the best they can and we should be proud.

So stop people and reflect on how your attitude is to your own sons and daughters who you probably manipulate into sports that you failed in and attempt to reverse your lack of success in life or sport  through them.

Jump for Joy

So to you I say “FUCK YOU”!!

football and other sportThese Young  Australian  Athletes need to be recognised for the achievement of what they have done measured against  their goals line not yours. Can you imagine the damage you are doing to their self-respect? So shut up and run away to YOUR Mother.

LAST WEEK Our Olympians had their welcome Parade through Sydney. I thinks it’s high time for the armchair experts to put a sock in it and face up to the fact that world is a smaller place today and more countries are competing  for a piece of the Gold Medal cake that is not much larger than Montreal in 1974.

Candidly what I want to say as a summary of my piece to-day again is “Shut the Fuck Up” While you ponder your position if like me you didn’t see the opening ceremony here it is.

Did we export our sporting secrets?

We did not export the concept of the Australian Institute of Sport any more than it’s been stolen from us. Our coaches haven’t been stolen  any more than coaches from other countries especially from the old Soviet Union and the GDR (East Germany) saw opportunities to not only gain well paid employment but were driven by a love of spreading  an interest  in their sport to the World.

As a coach of over 38 years my principle interest has always been the development of the game I and love my young charges first, the sport of their endeavour actually may come second and then and only then that of the Country that happens to be mine. Jingoism is the least important and should be cast into the same dustbin of history as that of the organisers of 1936 Olympics.

If I helped in a small way produce players who played for Arsenal or Gillingham and not my beloved Millwall did that matter? Absolutely not!  If it was that they might play for England one day and not my Motherland Scotland would I have cared? NO!

A coach’s first love; equally is his or her sport and his charges. That’s what matters and the spreading of the love for that game or sport worldwide. This applies also to Art and Culture but that is another discussion however they part of the diaspora.

Coaching is all we care about

Think about this for a moment It’s interesting when we win its us when they fail its them

There is much ignorance being spouted about  “their” failure  and the allegation our system and “our” coaches have been nicked is bullshit. It’s been all over the TV the Radio and in the media including this piece below.

I will address directly an article I saw recently in the Global Mail headlined .

Which To Fund: Olympic Gold For The Few; or Fitness for The Masses?

Great question: premise is wrong !!


“Amid the great achievements of Australian athletes in London, the medal tally is short of the forecast haul. The 2009 Crawford Report urged funding for more sports, for more people, rather than the back-a-winner formula that has brought Australia disproportionate success for the past 32 years”

The last part of the statement “the back-a-winner formula” is only correct if you view some data bits and not the whole Data set.  The result and therefore the statement is falls skewed.

To understand the reality today we have to look a little deeper I don’t mean challenge the Crawford report but challenge the hysteria and nonsense  being  given oxygen. One of those people is Dr James Connor.

We need be sure analyse how and what we have done and  where we have been  if we are to progress and not (supposedly) slip further behind the World…However if we do slip behind so what!

The main driver of concern should be “sport and participation for all” not just an [able-bodied] elite. Will we bellyache if our Para Olympians are not so successful in past years or will we be whingeing about that too? Because as is the Olympic movement the Para Olympic movement will encompass more and more nations. Indeed it will be that other people with disabilities from other lands and cultures who today have less access to good health care, prosthetics, equipment and the like might prove more “successful” than Australia.

Will we behave in the same way as we say we should do today over the able Olympics and deny exporting our “training secrets, prosthetics or specialise wheel bearing for wheel chairs?  No we will behave as we all know we should and spread the knowledge? Yes  we should be proud to be part of Olympic Gold For The Many and  Fitness for The Global Masses.

If you absorb that last paragraph and reflect you will understand one hopes just how idiotic you have been. We need to remember not all athletic and sporting prospects develop at the same time. So actually have a range of other issues to overcome the unforeseen injury, the stage fright and paralysis of fear of failure. We are after all talking about young people. All who participate should be commended for the gallant attempt and it might just be they achieved a Personal Best!

Can we ask for better?

The selection can be very subjective and the gift of picking talent is an inexact science.  Perhaps the finding of *Valerie Borsov may raise a question or two as it was mooted [in the West] that the Soviets had identified a particular  physique need to win the 100m. It turned out in fact this was just really Cold War rhetoric.

Whatever the truth of that about Borsov if we improve facilities in for example our Public Schools and use that as the premise to uncover talent  the medals will return; bronze is good enough and so what if its 4th or 5th? Perhaps we need to record those results in much the same way we have become finite with finishing times calculated in 1000th of a second.

For those who don’t know at the Munich Olympics Borzov won the 100 m sprint with ease in a time of 10.14 seconds and complted the double with Gold in 200m. In response the 100m favourites [the Americans] had promised they would beat Borzov. However, with three Americans in the final Borzov easily won again.

A picture, featuring Borzov winning the 200 m heats at the 1972 Summer Olympics was selected for the Voyager Golden Record and later launched into space aboard two Voyager spacecraft in 1977. However, the Americans won the 4×100 relay with the Soviets taking second place.

Borzov’s repeat time in Montreal though only winning Bronze, the performance of East Germany; a country of just 16 million caused the AOC to reflect on our  Montreal results and to consider creating a similar system of sporting excellence here in Australia . Let’s repeat that….., the performance of East Germany; a country of just 16 million caused the AOC  to reflect on our  Montreal results and to consider creating a similar system of sporting excellence here in Australia

So NO Mr Connor  the AIS was not an Australian creation but a concept  WE imported.

Who is Mr or to give him his correct title Dr Connor ? I will get to that in a few lines

The Canberra-based Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) was established as a direct result of the dismal performance at the Montreal Olympics, and now has an annual budget of about $200 million.

A breakdown of the original sports might be interesting. What expertise we have exported, imported or failed at. 3 of the sports were not in 1974 in the Olympics which is a point of interest ( and 2 still aren’t.  I could go into more forensic detail today but with the huge number of sports now at the AIS to give a blow-by-blow account of all would probably take until the next Olympic in RIO. The Original sports:

Basketball: The sport experienced rapid growth in the late 1980s as young people became more interested in American culture  however by the mid and late 1990s  the popularity went into sharp decline and its recent lack of success is more due to that than any exit of coaches.

Gymnastics: Was the preserve of the Soviets and East Europeans!  With the collapse of the Soviet Union we imported their coaches later to be followed by the Chinese.

Netball: This is not an Olympic sport and while we are successful in the Commonwealth we just about keep our noses in front of New Zealand a country with a much smaller population. A country that incidentally has provided us with our current Wallaby coach. We have no coach exports here

Soccer: Has generally always looked to Europe with the occasional South American for its key coaches. Imported coaches are disproportionately represented at all levels as are managers in the current “A” League  and its predecessor . These imports drive the progressive coaching techniques and again it isn’t Australia or the AIS system.

As our most engaged sport proportionately we do not perform well on the world stage…and there are reasons for that which is now tied to how the Game is administered in Australia.  But that is for another discussion but the system is not exportable nor is it wanted by anybody. Even at a State level especially in the ACT the game is very poorly managed.

For a short period in the mid-90s we were certainly a source of inexpensive prospects for overseas teams…but no longer. Our pathway schemes are a failure and no more so than in the ACT where geographically we should be producing a finer crop of youngsters.

Swimming: We may well be exporting a very little our coaching prowess with a couple of coaches however we should have a decent  pipeline off our own as it is inevitable that coaches need replacing.  The get stale lose interest or simply retire. This excuse for poor performance does not stack up and it maybe the talent at this point is simply not as good. It may be the coaches we have are in fact doing an exceptional job…who knows for sure anything different.

Those few who have gone abroad are generally in the twilight of their careers. It should be remembered that our geographic position is to our swimming advantage than for example with the Europeans with their very long winters. Our overall results measured against Europe still reflect this. For Australia our development of this sport rising a 5 pm in an Australian Winter is vastly easier than that in Northern East European Countries or for Canada and the Northern reaches of the USA.

Tennis: We have hardly excelled at Tennis in the years since the 80s so there is little to discuss here.

Mo Farrar When did Australia win the 5000 or 10000

Track and Field:  Honestly have we ever done comprehensively well at this except for the occasional “Golden Girl or Boy” or occasional marathon Runner.

Weightlifting:  Was always the preserve of the Soviets and Eastern Europeans and Australia was not at the forefront of this except for a single weight division at the Sydney Olympics, otherwise we have relied on imported coaches competitors from the Southern Republics of the old Soviet Union.

So to more nonsense:

So who is Dr James Connor who not only has managed to sell himself as an expert to the Global mail but as I understand it has been or wanted to be interviewed on ABC Radio.

He describes himself as a senior lecturer in the University of NSW’s school of business with a “special interest in the funding of elite national sports programs, and the cloning of Australia’s elite sports” “Strategy” tops his list of the reasons for Australia’s poorer-than-expected showing in London.

Drawing on the article and knowing his sport is Hockey I decided to take a bit of a “stick” to Dr Connor

Says Connor…..

“Generally speaking the rest of the world has finally cottoned onto what we’ve been doing for the last 25 years — so that every one of them is copying the Australian Institute of Sport. So the Chinese in particular, the Americans, Team GB copied exactly the system that we employed since setting up the AIS in terms of elite funding, elite support, sport science, the whole-of-athlete approach to getting gold medals. And because we have lost that competitive advantage, we are back in the pack again.”

Well if you believe that and as I pointed out earlier if we want to kid ourselves we WILL fall further behind as that statement ALONE is just rubbish as I will reveal. It is important to do so lest we invest tax payer dollars in based on a false premise. It needs to be nipped in the bud.

Connor goes on…

……the torrent of Australian coaching and sports science talent that has leached away overseas as other nations have sought to capitalise on those with inside knowledge of the Australian rise at the Olympics since the turnaround prompted by the embarrassment of Montreal.

Mr Connor the world is a smaller place, other countries are developing, in spite of facilities like the AIS; athletes like the young Gold Medallist from Trinidad and Tobago shine through. He was not coached by an Australian nor for that matter was Usain Bolt or the rest of the Jamaican 100m relay team or Mo Farra.

Says Connor….

“Our sports scientists and coaches are now training everyone else on the planet. When you look at for example, the Chinese swimmers, there is a whole cohort of Australian coaches and support staff.

This is just untrue

Connor again….

The same for cycling in the UK. So there are lots of people who were part of our system on the inside and knew what the tricks were, and now they’ve been poached by someone else.

This is rubbish. Yes there are 2 coaches but the roots of all the cycling teams lay with the advanced in bike design and training programs developed by the East Germans. The East Germans were the masters in their day of the technology and it the technology that gave Team GB the marginal edge in London 2012 not the coaches in isolation I refer to the The Wattbike, designed and created in Nottinghamshire, was developed with British Cycling to measure the power generated by an athlete and, unlike any other indoor cycle machine at the time, mimic the experience of riding a bike on the road.

The machines have been used by British cyclists, including Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton, since 2007, but the rowers, sailors and even heptathlon gold medallist Jessica Ennis, trained on them in the build-up to London 2012. This is the edge we lost

Team GB (Cycling)

One of the arguments you hear from the sporting elite is that this is horrible, that we have to have more money so we can keep them here. But, you know, that is just not how it works. In the real world you can’t just keep people locked away at an institute or somewhere just because you want to keep their knowledge.”

Dave Brailsford  the performance director 48 is Welsh not Australian and it is he who is credited with “professionalising” cycling, securing funding to pay competitors rather than having them train after work.

He focuses on the “aggregation of marginal gains”, examining almost every detail, down to the pillows used by cyclists.

Other key staff include sports psychologist Steve Peters medical doctor and psychiatrist, described by Brailsford as “the best appointment I’ve made”…is a Brit.

The Team GB Sprint coach a German Jan van Eijden is a double World Champion in sprint and team sprint  and part of the team built around Keirin gold medallist Victoria Pendleton

Yes there are Australians but only 2 out of a team of 12 Head coach Shane Hutton, a Commonwealth Games gold medallist, acts as a mentor for other coaches and Road race specialist Rod Ellington works for Team Sky with Brailsford in the Tour de France, and has been described by top sprinter Mark Cavendish as “the best coach in the world”.

Do we lose Coaches?

On Connor’s list … the long-vexed issue of trying to pick the sports and competitors most likely to win Olympic gold and favouring them with the bulk of the public funding from the Federal Government’s Australian Sports Commission (ASC).

On the ASC says Connor….

“The ASC tries to pick the sports that are going to get the best results and they fund them disproportionately to other sports. “

And if they fail to deliver, like swimming in these Olympic Games, then it looks like we’ve done very poorly and we get the  picking-the-winner problem.”

The Perhaps there is some truth in this but it isn’t born out by the results and sailing is an example The real truth is critics like Connor try to argue that in just 4 years since Bejing a sporting collapse has occurred. Well it hasn’t and further there is no evidence that if it had it is because we have exported our experts or fallen behind. One of the problems with western culture is that we see time as linear It isn’t its cyclic so just as the seasons pass so does the baton of success falter. Cricket our number one Australian game is testimony to this.

It is more the case other countries are investing and identifying talent that perhaps may otherwise not have been seen and developed in the past.

In Football this is also true as the smaller African, Sub Saharan and countries like Korea and Japan are having an increasing contribution to the World Game. No more so is this evident than in Footballs with ever-increasing influx of African and Afro British players into the Premier League.

Today they emerge with players in the English Premier League, BundesLiga (Germany), LaLiga (Spain), Serie A (Italy)etc.  Only a few coaches predicted that 30 odd years ago and they have in recent times about the emergence in more recent time of China…and India.

Johnny Warren

This coaching jingoism needed to be dealt with in the World game which is why the late Johnny Warren canvassed that Australia needed to join the Asia pathway to qualify for the World Cup as we otherwise wouldn’t develop. That we are going backwards in the FFA run game here has more to do with Frank Lowy being out of touch as anybody who knows me knows I have expressed for a decade that the Game here is poorly run and is not something for export coaches included.

Sport Without Boarders.

As coaches we want to see “our” sport embraced by all of  the planet and not kept in a vacuum so we can pat ourselves on the back to say “Job well done”

The Premier League is interesting from another aspect with the representation of Scottish Managers.  Yet one would never argue the historical weakness of the domestic game in Scotland was due to the managerial and coaching staff going south!

I have a theory about all this ballyhoo and that is; people like Connor  are like the same type of parents I’ve seen as a coach who would often spend a lot of time with their “chosen” children pushing them to succeed in an area that they the parent happen  to value and then put the children on display. For them it’s not about the child. The parent might get involved in the child’s activity in some capacity, to be seen as selfless and helpful and to be admired by others as devoted parents; they will even tweet blog about it …..but ask the children and he or she would tell you later that ‘Dad or Mum’ got involved but he did it for himself. “It was never about me.”

Dr Connor please take a rain check!

The History of it all:

Australia’s efforts to cast off the dejection of the 1976 Montreal Olympics in which Australia was left at 32nd on the medal table embraced the programs of the East Germans. Those like programs saw Australia lift to 15th on the medal table for the 1980 Moscow Olympics  but those results need to be put into perspective.  They are the games that were boycotted for example by the US. SO we had to do well. We finished 14th at Los Angeles in 1984 (I was an Australian by this time) 15th at Seoul in 1988 and in 1982 got into the top 10 nations in Barcelona. This is where we finished in 2012!

For Interest BELOW are the results of Australia’s AIS Olympic results since 1984 coupled with the contribution from the AIS.  The contribution from the AIS is far from compelling and contradicts Dr Connor’s premise . The rise in competition standards of other new nations is contributing to Australia  finishing down order in the individual events This is now a key reason for the lessening of our total Australia medal count e.g being pushed down from Gold to Silver to bronze to 4TH to 5TH and so on.

As I wrote earlier we are just being pipped out of a place in the top 3. That’s all !

What do those in the know say?

Rob Fildes, president of Athletics Australia, says the competition has intensified as developing countries have actively joined the race.

“There are a lot of new countries, such as Ukraine and Kazakhstan, putting a lot of money into their sport and that includes things like coaching,” he says.

“There are coaches who leave Australia and there are coaches who come to Australia. That is the way it is these days”.

Australia’s gold medal-winning sailors were coached by Ukrainian Victor Kovalenko, the basketballers take orders from an American Brett Brown and the divers benefit from the guidance of former Chinese Olympian, Hui Tong.

Peggy Liddick may have become an Australian citizen this year but the gymnastics coach came here via the United States, where she landed medals.

Incidentally the area off the old Soviet Union would have achieved  151 medals with 41 Gold /24 Russia today. They too have exported coaches

Another question is whether having Australians travel to other countries to gain exposure to fresh methods and approaches is a problem.

Matthew Favier came back to Australia this year after a stint in Britain and says he believes that “the experience has made him more valuable to Australia”.

The Wallabies are coached by a Kiwi 🙂

This is what we should be focused on the Camaraderie of the Olympic Spirit

For interest and some reference below are the Australian Olympic Medal Standing since 1984

1984 Olympic Games Los Angeles

Finished  fourth  behind the United States, China and Soviet Union

AIS  7 medals with 33 athletes and competed in four sports winning 5 silver 2 bronze medals.

*In 2012: Australia won 38 medals finishing in 7th place!! With 7 Gold 

 increase of elite Athletes world-wide  This is important as it can be 1000ths 100ths or just a second or two or three of a second between 1st and 3rd  even 4th 5th or 6th It should also be accepted the world is a smaller place with more countries competing.

1988 Olympic Games Seoul

15 (10 in 2012)

118 AIS athletes won 6 medals competed in 13 sports and won 1 gold, 2 silver, 3 bronze.

Australia: Won 3 Gold, 6 Silver, 5 Bronze.

AIS /Australia ratio = 6/14

1992 Olympic Games Barcelona

Finished 10 ( same 2012)

139 AIS athletes competed in thirteen sports.Won 3 gold, 5 silver and 6 bronze.

Australia: Won 7 Gold, 9 Silver, 11 Bronze.

AIS /Australia ratio = 14/27

1996 Atlanta Olympic Games:

Finished 7

207 AIS athletes competed in thirteen sports and won 4 gold, 7 silver and 17 bronze.

Australia Won 9 Gold 9 Silver 23 Bronze

AIS /Australia ratio = 28/41

2000 Olympic Games Sydney:

Finished 4 (6 ahead of 2012)

319 AIS athletes competed in nineteen sports and won 8 gold, 11 silver and 13.

Australia Won 16 Gold, 25 Silver, 17 Bronze.

AIS /Australia ratio = 32/ 58

2004 Olympic Games Athens:

Finished 4

289 AIS athletes competed in competed in twenty sports and won 10 gold, 10 silver and 12 bronze medals

Australia Won 17 Gold, 16 Silver, 17 Bronze.

AIS /Australia ratio = 32/50

2008 Olympic Games Beijing:

Finished 6

263 AIS athletes won 7 gold, 9 silver and 7 bronze medals

Australia   Won 14  Gold, 15 Silver 17 Bronze.

AIS /Australia ratio = 23/46

UK    Won   19 Gold, 13 Silver, 15 Bronze.  Total 47

2012  London:

Finished 10 (same as 1996 but secured 8 more medals in 2012 )

AIS athletes ? At time of posting results not available In any case nationwide I think it would be quite healthy to see more of a contribution from around the country.

Australia    Won   7 Gold   16 Silver 12 Bronze          35

UK               Won 29 Gold  17 Silver 19 Bronze          65

There are other measurements of success:

Medals  v Gross Domestic Product  v Population  v Team size.

Actual Rank GDP Pop Team size
USA 1 66 47 5
China 2 54 73 1
GB 3 40 20 13
Russia 4 36 34 8
South Korea 5 43 31 15
Germany 6 55 35 19
France 7 58 36 23
Italy 8 57 40 24
Hungary 9 14 8 17
Australia 10 44 11 30
Japan 11 70 50 21
Kazakhstan 12 28 28 14
Netherlands 13 46 19 20
Ukraine 14 18 44 29
Spain 15 56 46 47
Brazil 16 71 67 54
Cuba 17 11 18 16
New Zealand 18 20 4 35

So in terms of GDP we are not doing very well …is that because we export our coaches or techniques?  No!!

So to finish thought it appropriate to include the Closing ceremony which like the opening at the time of this post I have yet to see.

The  Commonwealth Games table is also worth a passing look

1982 Brisbane  107  39 Gold  39 Silver  29 Bronze

37 AIS athletes = 12 gold, 12 silver and 7 bronze medals.

1986 Edinburgh 121 = 40 Gold  46 Silver  35 Bronze

75 AIS athletes = 19 gold, 16 silver and 17 bronze medals.

1990 Auckland 162 = 52 Gold  54 Silver  56 Bronze

87 AIS athletes = 25 gold, 25 silver and 27 bronze medals.

1994 Victoria 182 = 87 Gold  52 Silver  43 Bronze

87 AIS athletes = 35 gold, 16 silver and 15 bronze medals.

1998 Kuala Lumpur 198 = 80 Gold  61 Silver  57 Bronze

138 AIS athletes = won 34 gold, 29 silver and 21 bronze medals.

2002  Manchester 206 = 82 Gold 62 Silver 63 Bronze

168 AIS athletes  = 44 Gold, 23 Silver and 33 Bronze

2006 Melbourne 222  = 84 Gold  69 Silver 69 Bronze  Gold  Silver  Bronze

AIS Data not available

2010 Deli  177  =  74 Gold  55 Silver  48 Bronze

AIS Data not available

Here are the Rolling Stones from the Album High Tide and Green Grass: Track 19th Nervous Breakdown



  1. I am watching Australia just dripping in medals at the Paralympics. Now, I haven’t been watching every session but it occurs to me that I have not seen any Aboriginal people in the Australian team nor have I seen any African nations – except, in the case of the latter, in the opening ceremony. If Aboriginal people and African people are not participating, what does this say about the Paralympics? Is it only possible to participate in such a top notching sporting event if you are part of a developed economy, if you live in or near major urban areas? So while we bask in the reflected achievement of our Paralympians – let’s think about how people are faring in rural and remote Australia and in those strife torn countries on the African continent. People with disabilities do it tough in these places.

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