Olympic losers - the misery of past hosts

Greece, Spain, Australia - three of the last five Olympic hosts have one gold between them.


    Imagine a 10-year-old from Australia during the Sydney 2000 Olympics cheering Cathy Freeman to victory and watching her nation proudly win 16 golds and finishing fourth in the medals table

    Aged 22 is he or she among those winning golds in London? Apparently not.

    This has been a dismal Games for a nation that claims, which much justification, to love and participate in sport more than any other in world. Ten days in to the Games and they have one gold. ONE.

    When the British euphoria dies down after London 2012 this statistic might send a shiver down the spine. Legacy? What legacy?

    Olympic bosses say it takes a decade to judge the intangible effect of hosting a games. Well it's 12 years since Sydney. Where are the winners?

    After an initial sense of humour failure, the Australian media are turning to desperate comic measures to balance the serious concerns. One newspaper has started to include the medals of New Zealand, who are having a good Games, in the medals table under the banner of 'Auszealand'.

    It's the failure to win more than one swimming gold that has hurt Australia most, on silvers and bronzes they are doing reasonably.

    The most senior Australian member of the International Olympic Committee, former Olympian Kevin Gosper has said the failure to win gold medals results from cuts to government funding of Olympic sports in 2009.

    'You've got to put money in there. That pays for coaches, it pays for international competition. It's the difference between gold and silver.'

    But Australia are not the only nation suffering funding cuts in these austere times.

    Spain's Olympics so far has been grim - 39th in the medal table at the time of writing. I've seen and spoken to Spanish supporters in the Olympic Park and spirits remain high amongst people whose football team dominate the world.

    At these Olympics their football team was eliminated without scoring a goal - summing up their first 10 days at the Games where no golds and just three medals came their way.

    There needs to be a context to their 'failure'. Spain had no real history of Olympic success until the hugely successful Barcelona Games of 1992 that brought 13 home golds and transformed the reputation and confidence of a city.

    Spain are by no means 'Olympic heavyweights'. But they are undoubtedly struggling in London and the shape of their economy is related heavily to their lack of serious contenders.

    Hard times

    Which brings us to Greece. Hosts eight years ago they have just two bronzes to show for their efforts so far and are out of the top 50 in the medals table. They brought a team weakened to just over 100 members by the crippling economic problems and their modest performances are completely unsurprising.

    So bad were their finances after the Athens games that the IOC have had to acknowledge the part of the Olympics in their demise. They told me the problems in Greece are less than two per cent because of them hosting. Less than two per cent of Greece's debt amounts to a big problem.  

    And it's no secret that many of the venues from Athens were left to rot. This can hardly help their cause in developing talent.

    Greece, Spain, Australia. Three of the last five Olympic hosts with one gold between them. 

    It's a warning to governments in any host nation from Britain to Brazil. Don't let participation and funding slip after the feelgood factor of The Olympic fortnight.

    Or you may be left out of the gold rush.



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