So the Olympics are finished and the buzz word is “legacy”. I’ve heard plenty of discussion about a change in our perception of disability, a new affection for the union flag, a lasting regeneration of the East End of London, possible business and tourism spin-offs…all very valid talking points but aren’t we missing something?
The Olympics is a great showcase for a huge range of sport, most of which doesn’t normally make it to freeview TV. And for once, the women get as much of a look in as the men. It was fantastic, for example, to see my fifteen year old son as engrossed in the women’s football at the Millennium Stadium as he would be in any other match.
With the games over, we’re back to the copious supply of Premiership action with a bit of rugby and cricket mixed in – and not a woman in sight, as least not on the pitch. When I mentioned this casually in conversation, an acquaintance pointed out that the women playing football in the Olympics may have looked skilful but they were the crème de la crème. Anything else would be boring.
What he’d failed to take into account was the fact that most girls don’t ever play football – many play netball which didn’t even make it into the Olympics. Those who do play normally have to do it in their spare time. The fact that there was so much skill displayed in the Olympic matches despite all this is a huge achievement.
It’s clear from the Olympics that there’s an appetite for cycling, fencing, swimming, handball – any number of sports, played by men and women, able-bodied or disabled. When are we going to see this reflected on the main free TV channels? We demand diversity in company boardrooms, among our politicians and in the media. Excluding women and disabled people is not an option. Will these principles ever extend to sport coverage?