Team GB flew in to Heathrow on Tuesday morning this week, clanking with their scores of medals, on flight number BA2016, a British Airways 747 repainted with a golden nose and renamed “victoRIOus”. The best Olympic results for these Glorious Isles in over a century.
To come second in the medals table is brilliant, but to be honest should not come as such a big surprise as it clearly has. I wonder if that gob-smacking surprise is just a function of typical British pessimism; we love an underdog, or understatement and one of the worst insults you can make in the UK is to tell someone they think a lot of themselves. Jason Kenny is such a dude precisely because he seems not to want to be one.
The massive success of Rio has come on the back of a number of factors, some of which were out of our control (the Russians and their drugs issues) but many of them completely – ruthlessly even - within it.
Following the GB debacle in Atlanta, where we won just 1 Gold Medal the way that sport has been funded, managed and supported has been fundamentally altered. Make no mistake: this was a strategic decision that has led us to where we stand today. It points the way to a brighter future taking us, via various World Championships, European Championships and the 2018 Commonwealth Games to Tokyo in 2020. Look at all those youngsters winning and coming in the 3rd or 4th spots in Rio!
We have a lot to thank John Major for. It was his government that started the focus, partly driven by the national lottery, on winning as the key priority. In order to win, there has had to be a recognition that in a finite world some sports have a greater chance of success than others, so those are the sports where the effort has to be placed.
Some have had harsh words for Britain’s “no compromise” approach to funding, which allocates money to sports with a realistic chance of earning medals and at the same time denies support to the less successful sports from the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
But the reality is we all have to make decisions about priorities every day of our personal and commercial lives. Where will what I do make the biggest difference? What are my aims? How do I want the next 4 years of my life to look? Do I turn left or right? How am I going to prepare to put myself and/or my business in the best possible place to achieve my goals?
Without the clarity of focus, we all too often finish up in confusion and disarray, sometimes at the beck and call of others rather than driven by our own criteria and in control of our own destiny.
This approach might result in some goals having to be written off or, better perhaps, negotiated off the table in return for achieving what you really want. This may be a price worth paying if Gold is truly in your grasp.