Apparently there’s some sort of sporting malarkey going on in China. It has induced even Boris Johnson to talk some good sense:
If you believe the politicians, we have a broken society, in which the courage and morals of young people have been sapped by welfarism and political correctness.
And if you look at what is happening at the Beijing Olympics, you can see what piffle that is. Do not adjust your set: that really is a collection of smiling, well-balanced young British people, giving pleasingly self-deprecating accounts of how they have managed to haul in medal after medal after medal.
He goes on to note that most British Olympians (the ones in Athens four years ago, at least) were privately educated.
What that statistic tells me is that there is a huge untapped reservoir of potential athletic genius in the maintained sector.
Imagine if we ensured that children had better access to the facilities they need. Imagine if we stamped out the last vestige of the politically correct nonsense that for so long dominated the educational establishment, and militated against competitive sport, and its indispensable concepts of winning and losing.
Yes, yes, yes, political correctness. But don’t forget access to facilities, and the fact that that costs money. On which subject, Steve Richards has something to say:
I am excited too about another dimension to the Olympic triumph, as rare and unexpected as the growing tally of medals. For the first time I can recall in my adult lifetime, there is a consensus that public investment has made a pivotal difference. From Sky News to the BBC's Sports Editor Mihir Bose, the connection is being openly made between the lottery funding and the successes in Beijing.
If politicians had some nerve, they could use the events in Beijing to encourage a more mature debate about public spending. If voters can see a connection between investment and its consequences, they are enthused. They become excited to the point where they are willing to contemplate higher levels of spending. In the coming months, if the Government announced more cash to train athletes for the 2012 Olympics, there would be cheers all round.
This is not the case with the rest of public spending. On the whole, there is a prevailing sense that we pay into a great big hole marked "tax". The cash is lost, never to be seen again. A Government supposedly obsessed with public relations has displayed a strange complacency in its failure to show the connections with that big hole and the benefits.