Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Team GB vs Team USA: gold for enthusiasm.

I have never watched so much of the Olympics as I have this year. The combination of its being in London and the British team's astonishing performance have just made it incredibly exciting, and we've been glued to it every single night, as well as a lot of the weekend. Having found a way to bypasss NBC's abysmal coverage, we've been enjoying the BBC commentary, especially Gaby Logan's rather naff, but entertaining, Olympic highlights show and relishing in every rendition of Spandau Ballet's Gold.

One thing I've noticed is that my American pals are NOT so excited about the Olympics. Despite the fact that Team USA has tonnes of medals, and US athletes have broken various world records, especially in swimming, several of my friends have not watched it at all and most are not really aware of what is going on. One guy I spoke to was amazed that the US was second in the medal table - he just hadn't taken it in. Others are aware of some results - like the victory of the female US gymnasts, who are constantly being interviewed on US TV now - but don't really know about anything else. There's usually more excitement over the latest series of American Idol than I've seen over the Olympics. I partly blame this on NBC (again) as everything good is tape delayed and its four hour highlights programme goes on far too late - most of the best events are screened between 11 and 12 at night. And of course, I'm sure Americans would be more excited were it on US soil.

But also I think it's because America is so used to being top dog. Winning all the medals just isn't a big deal for them - the only real accolades have been for people like Michael Phelps (although in the early days of the Games when he wasn't winning, this all went a bit quiet). Whereas we, in Britain, are just elated; it's as if we can't believe that we're doing so well, after years of feeling as if we're crap at sport. We're always the underdog, the team that hasn't won the World Cup since 1966, the country whose players never actually win at Wimbledon. But that is all changing with the Olympics. Finally, we can believe that the UK can be successful at something. (And not just sport - we seem to have organized a world class event, with fantastic venues, great atmosphere and not a hint of the chaos that some people predicted).

One of the boys' recurring questions while watching the Games is whether Team GB is going to get more medals than China/The USA. (An alternative spin on this, from Littleboy 1 just before he went to bed last night: what would happen if we won all the golds, USA won all the silvers and China won all the bronzes?). They just can't understand when The Doctor and I try to explain that the US and China are far bigger countries and there's no way we're going to beat them.

But as I look at Team GB's count on the medal table creeping upwards, I wonder if I'm not being positive enough? This article from the Guardian suggests that the UK is definitely punching above its weight. Maybe I need to stop telling the boys that the UK can't do it. I've never felt hugely patriotic, but maybe it's time they learned the words to our national anthem as well as "God Bless America" (which they march around singing all the time). Perhaps, if they growing up thinking we're a great sporting nation, it might dispel some of the cynicism and negativity that the British are famous for.



10 comments:

Kit said...

It's great that Team GB are doing so well! Our kids were mostly interested in how South Africa was doing early on, but now they are tracking GBs medal progress religiously and are quietly resigned to SA dropping off the first page of the medal table. It's giving them some interest and pride in the fact that they are half English!

About Last Weekend said...

I agree that the Brits,and the Kiwis too, are always so much more joyful to watch, because traditionally they get so fewer medals that they are stoked when they get one whatever the colour!

MsCaroline said...

This is hard to address, since we're (obviously) not in the US right now, so I'm not 100% sure what I would normally be doing! I agree that the US tend to get more excited only about 'superstars' (that's probably a topic for a whole blog post, isn't it?) but not about the medal count as a rule, but I'd never thought about the difference in attitude towards medals overall...hmm. Time for some introspection.

Sarah said...

As an American at home for the summer who lives in London it is funny as we all are watching the Olympics here in CT! I agree the medal count is not the biggest thing for Americans at all. It is the individual competitions we are interested in. I agree about the late night coverage. I will be taking a break tonight and getting to bad at a good time.

Circles in the Sand said...

Really interesting post. There's been a lot of talk here about how lottery funding has made all the difference - and you can see how the medal count started going up, from about one gold, after funding for sport was introduced. And, of course, now there's a lot of talk about how to create an Olympic legacy - good time to be a PE teacher! (who I always thought were school's sadists!) I'm guessing there isn't such a funding-for-sport-problem in the US. Certainly the American schools in Dubai are much more sports focused, it seems, than the other schools.

Anonymous said...

Ah very interesting post, London is literally going mad for the games! I've also discovered this channel on youtube: http://bit.ly/olmVd

a new rap each day summarising the olympic events of the previous day! perfect

Iota said...

The Olympics have definnitely brought out the patriotic in me (and it was pretty deeply buried!).

Anonymous said...

I've been reading English papers. Can you tell me why it's so hard for them to give Michael Phelps his due. Is it because he's American? All they write about is Ennis and Bolt.
They did great but Phelps had a great achievement - some would say the greatest.

nappy valley girl said...

Kit - that's great! It's the same with my boys, it's making them more interested in their heritage.

ALW - sometimes it's fun to be the underdog...

MsCaroline - I'm sure the UK would go the same way if we regularly won a ton of medals. Although let's just see if we can keep it up....

Sarah - I do think the late night coverage was sad. Not everyone wants to stay up till midnight, and they could at least have told you in advance what would be shown when.

Circles - interestingly, there is very little sport in the elementary school here. All the sports are extra-curricular (although I think it is different in high school). The children do not even get changed for P.E.!

Iota - I feel the same...

Anonymous - I haven't seen that much of the English papers (except online) so can't comment too much, but I think it's more that we are so excited about our own people than that we're disparaging about Phelps. Perhaps because he won so many medals in Beijing? Or maybe because swimming is for whatever reason a less "sexy" sport than athletics....Still, I'm sure he will get his due when he returns home!

Emily O'Hara said...

It's funny reading this as an Australian in Canada! Their level of enthusiasm was a little dissapointing, especially as we were looking forward to the competative banter!!