It seems as though the Olympics have had more than just a positive effect on sport in this country… After England’s superb victory over Brazil on Wednesday the press were… well, positive! It’s fantastic – journalists now realise that our country can win things because they deserve to, not just because the opposition didn’t turn up on the day.
When I woke up on Thursday after the heroics of Joe Hart, Jack Wilshere and others I was expecting to see headlines like ‘England struggle past dreadful Brazil’ and ‘Scorlari back to his hapless self,’ but to my surprise they didn’t. The Guardian Online ran with the headline ‘England cherish rare and deserved victory over Brazil’ and even The Daily Mail were looking at the positives, describing how ‘Roy’s tactics reap[ed] rewards against Brazil.’ It was fantastic to read our players being praised for all their hard work and the praise was richly deserved. But the question is why has the press suddenly changed its ways?
As I suggested in the intro, I feel the 2012 Olympics have had a massive part to play in this. The constant flow of medals and success at both the able-bodied Games and the Paralympics proved that we are, in fact, an immensely talented nation and not just pretenders who choke on the big stage. The build up was fantastic and quite astonishing, with newspaper reports, radio presenters and so on really bigging up GB’s chances of glory rather than predicting doom and gloom, setting the nation up for a summer of success. However, after the first couple of days there was only one silver medal, courtesy of Lizzie Armistead in the women’s road race, alongside a solitary from Becky Adlington in the closet. By day four Britain only had the added two more medals and were still yet to claim their first gold. Their positivity rapidly disappeared and normality returned – Mark Cavendish was slaughtered by some for not even coming close to winning the Road Race while Adlington herself was criticsed for not being able to retain her gold medal in the 400m freestyle, despite the obvious joy on her face when she received the bronze. But as soon as the medals started to flood in the reports suddenly changed from negativity to adoration, and even disappointments, e.g. the British men’s eight only claiming bronze in the rowing, were held in high regard. Since then it seems as though every British sporting triumph, whether it be England’s win over India in the cricket or Shelley Rudman becoming World Skeleton Champion, is being glorified just as it should be. It’s fantastic that the stars are receiving the praise they should be, but it also questions why they haven’t for so long – why have they been so pessimistic for such a long period of time when historically, and not just in sporting terms, we are one of the greatest nations of all time?
The Olympians themselves have also changed how the media behaves. Before this summer professional sporting starts and the media had a tetchy relationship, with the sportsmen and women often refusing to acknowledge the existence of journalists. And can you blame them? The stereotypical journalist is a nosey, self-centered and arrogant person with no care for anything else except getting the latest story. But the sporting stars aren’t much different, appearing bored when giving interviews and not really showing their personality for fear of this being deliberately misinterpreted. But this is something the likes of Usain Bolt and Jessica Ennis didn’t do – they were open, honest and friendly, giving as many interviews as they could in the most enthusiastic of ways even when they were upset. The greatest example is the interview Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter gave after narrowly missing out on gold in the Men’s Lightweight Double Sculls – clinging on to each other just to be able to stand up, they gave one of the most emotional interviews ever broadcast despite their obvious upset, reducing Sir Steve Redgrave, John Inverdale and many more at home to tears. These stars gave the media a newfound respect for sportsmen and women alike and, as a result, they have realised that the only way to regain the love of others is to praise them for their outstanding acts, not find excuses for the other team as to why they lost.
However, while the press seems to have regained the national pride, the public still seemingly needs convincing. Overhearing conversations and listening to ‘tweets’ sent into radio stations over the last few months it still appears that Brits feel the need to attribute any success their country achieves to the failures of others. Comments such as ‘Brazil were woeful’ and ‘India have no good bowlers any more’ have been very common in recent months and every time I hear one it makes me boil underneath. Why can’t you just accept, like the media have, that your country has proven itself on the big stage? Where is your faith? Why are you even here if all you can do is criticse your nation?