if political hypocrisy was an Olympic event we would have left all but America standing by now.
That’s how I felt when I heard David Cameron exhorting schools to get behind sports.
It shouldn’t be a them and us issue between state or private schools. In this of all things there really should be a level playing field.
Yet many state schools have had to sell off playing fields for development or further academic facilities.
The emphasis of league performance tables is upon academic excellence rather than physical wellbeing. The fact that a physically active child tends to be a healthier child who will play hard, study hard and sleep well tends to be missed. Along with the link between rising rates of childhood obesity and flagging school sports.
I chatted to Blackpool’s champion ice skater Katie Stainsby recently, currently in Hot Ice. She was teamed with 2004 Olympic rowing champion Steve Williams for a special edition of Dancing On Ice to celebrate the games. And they won. But Katie made a very telling point. She questioned our obsession with football – our so called national sport when it’s been 46 years since we last won the World Cup. It was 1966, for pity’s sake. Most of our Olympians weren’t even born then.
And what she said resonated because, football fan though I am, she’s right. Why the fuss? Why all the funds? Where’s the cash for rowing, or swimming, or cycling, or judo, or the rest?
Katie talked of “silly girls” aspiring to be footballers’ wives or girlfriends. She asked why we worship the ground footballers walk on – when they’re not falling flat on their faces trying to force a penalty or mouthing obscenities at others.
She was tired of bad behaviour on and off the pitch, the unsportsmanlike taunts and language.
She highlighted the fact that Hot Ice ranks include former champion skaters who represented their countries before turning professional.
“We are athletes”, said Katie. “We train hard, we look after our bodies, we try to set a good example.”
Those are the role models we need – and skating’s just one area.
Yet I’ve lost count of the community projects that have folded or struggled for funding in recent years or the reduction in sports days.
School sports partnerships, 450 of them, were thriving until Michael Gove put paid to most by ending direct funding. These were alliances of sports colleges, primary, secondary and special schools in England.
And do you remember who sprang to the defence of such partnerships? Olympic champions Denise Lewis, Tessa Sanderson and Jason Queally warned the end of direct funding for school sports partnerships was “ill-conceived”. And the real price won’t be paid now but come the next Olympics. Don’t say they didn’t tell you so, Mr Cameron.