With media like this, who’d be an Olympian?

2 Aug

Sixteen-year-old Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen put in an extraordinary performance. Her achievement was immediately questioned by US swim coach John Leonard, who raised the spectre of drug use.

With remarkable aplomb, Ye faced a clamouring pack of some 300 journalists, one of whom asked her directly, are you on drugs? Her father became involved. This was an example of the Western media’s arrogance and suspicion of Chinese people, he claimed. Chinese media took the accusations as an example of anti-China bias, and how the media spreads the unfriendliness of the West. “If Ye were an American the tone would be different in Western media,” the Chinese claimed.

Meanwhile, sports body FINA declared Ye Shiwen has been rigorously tested for drug use, has fulfilled all testing requirements for the last twelve moths, and is clean.

It isn’t only Chinese swimmers who attract the attention of a media set on making mischief for the women and men who make it to the Olympics. The fabricated scandal over Leisel Jones’ fitness is a fine example of how a pack behaves when it has nothing much better to do and craves our attention.

Then there was Emily Seebohm’s emotional reaction when she failed to win the gold medal in her swim race. It was gold for the media. So much more for them to mine than if she’d just won the damn medal.

Not only do Olympians have to be exceptional at their sport, they also have to negotiate a media that adores them when they achieve and trashes them if they come second, because apparently coming first is the only thing that counts.

A dysfunctional relationship has evolved between spectators, media and Olympians. Somewhere along the line, it has become the norm to expect gold and behave with punitive contempt towards the athlete when the expectation isn’t fulfilled. No wonder Seebohm felt she’d let everybody down. The reality is, she had let down a dysfunctional audience for whom winning means everything, while the achievement of representing the country in the first place, and winning any medal at all, counts for far less than nothing.

This is not Seebohm’s fault. She, like all the Olympians, is the figure upon whom the couch-bound audience and its slavering media project all the hopes and dreams they are incapable of fulfilling in their own lives. When their idols fail them, they turn feral and savage them. I’d challenge any one of those miserably carping, critical voices to test themselves in their own chosen field to the extremes these young Olympians must.

The attitude of many spectators and much of the media to Olympic athletes strikes me as infantile. “We want our country to be a country that wins lots of gold and if you don’t do that for us we’ll hate on you.”  This nationalistic attitude, in which the individual gains a sense of self-worth and identity through the achievements of his or her country’s elite athletes, is dysfunctional. We all have a responsibility to achieve our own personal best in our lives, not to project that onto others to do it for us.

I’m not very interested in sport, but I do have a huge admiration and respect for the athletes who make it to the Olympics. Somewhere along the way we’ve stopped acknowledging that as an achievement in itself and giving credit where credit is due. I don’t believe the Olympics is all about winning gold. It’s very sad that it has come to this, saddest of all for those women and men who have the determination and spirit to get themselves to that level of competition.



31 Responses to “With media like this, who’d be an Olympian?”

  1. AMJUSTICE August 2, 2012 at 7:55 am #

    Lieisel Jones fitness has grabbed international attention. As a woman I am totally outrage that once again woman’s figures have come under attack by the Australian media. It has become an Australian obsession that a woman’s figures must be a six 6 to look healthy, to be fit, and to be beautiful. This national obsession has become a mental illness and a culture of hating woman for who they really are that is a size 14 or more!


    • Jennifer Wilson August 2, 2012 at 8:46 am #

      As I said to PW, I don’t know what these people are learning in journalism school. They seem to crave attention and will use any means to get it.


    • Hypocritophobe August 2, 2012 at 9:16 am #

      Just curious,do you have any involvement in womens/girls health?


    • Goku August 2, 2012 at 10:14 am #

      Not to jump on the side of the media here, but the sensationalized headlines regarding Lieisel Jones was to do more with her fitness levels, so to say that it is an attack on women’s figures in the general population is simply drawing the wrong conclusion. Ye Shiwen’s Australian swimming coach has stated that her zero body fat was part of the reason she has done so well and most athletes would be aware that it definitely has advantages, particularly in swimming. Although I agree the media have taken it over the top as usual, the point they make (if it is related to performance) would be correct.


  2. paul walter August 2, 2012 at 8:32 am #

    There has been something not quite right with these Olympics. There are too many vested interests, political and financial, with irons in the fire that are counter to the spirit of the games this time around.
    Media Watch has already had a pick at tabloid media over their piggish,narrow minded attacks on legendary Leisel Jones.
    Some of the male athletes and personalities have also been trashed .Thorpe is someone who comes to mind, while several others have been boiled for failing to win whole swathes of platinum medals.


    • Jennifer Wilson August 2, 2012 at 8:45 am #

      I agree, there’s something quite askew, seems worse than last time.


  3. zerograv1 August 2, 2012 at 8:32 am #

    I have to largely agree with your post JW. The commercial media (and even the ABC) tends to feed the masses with hype, over-expectation and spin. It makes it watchable for those craving an excitement “hit” and strangely aligns with a drugged up and the following downer that driving emotional rollercoasting brings. Interesting huh? I completely agree with you that all that make it to Olympic Selection can be justifiably proud and feel vindicated by all the very hard work that is involved in even getting selected. I am not however completely surprised by the wolf pack approach the northern hemisphere media applied to Ye Shiwen though. – Look how trashy the GB media is for example. Also the US in particular are a very proud nation and its an ego blow to see their colours lowered. Gladly some in the US team distanced themselves from that particular coaches comments. As for the media beat up about Liesel’s figure? That was laughable. Those that still dont know much about health are unaware about the three basic body types and are frankly a little silly using the fashion heroin chic template as a standard for the fitness women in the world. I just discounted the whole beat up as the writings of a very ignorant collective of “reporters”


    • Jennifer Wilson August 2, 2012 at 8:44 am #

      So far I’ve found the whole media thing quite sickening. I have no idea what these people are taught in journalism school.


  4. paul walter August 2, 2012 at 9:05 am #

    Part of it is that Nine is doing the free to air and they are the most “Tea Party”: of already rightist tabloid media in OZ.
    That’s why I wouldn’t argue with AMJUSTICE’s comments re the specific woman aspect. Wuite the opposite.
    Nine is notorious for its unrelentingly, grinding, overt misogyny and is generally fascistic anyway.


  5. Hypocritophobe August 2, 2012 at 9:12 am #

    The Olympics is as honest as reality TV.
    Why anyone would lever it credit is beyond me.
    Can you imagine how much taxpayers cash goes into this?
    The entire charade is allowing youth to become addicted to the sports system,with limited prospects of a normal existence beyond.There are plenty of examples of the damage done,bur we don’t like to talk about them as often,when the games are on.
    A recent violent outburst an example,Shane Goulds implosion,young kids bawling their eyes out for not getting a medal.
    This is a profiteering wonderland milking youth for media and sponsor cash.
    Either privatise it,or piss it off.
    Even the venue ballots are rigged for fecks sake.

    It has lost its integrity,decades ago.


  6. ratbagsdotcom August 2, 2012 at 9:23 am #

    I doubt that people are taught anything in journalism school. Just look at the poor grammar and lack of knowledge of logic and statistics in almost everything you read in the media.

    The bagging of athletes for not winning every time they go out there isn’t a new thing (and it’s not confined to Australia either). I remember a headline a few years back about a young swimmer – “Xyz fails again”. The failure was to come third in in a race. Did I mention that all three placegetters swam under the world record time?

    I was asked once why I bothered to compete in rallies if I didn’t win every time. I had no answer to such a stupid question.


  7. Sam Jandwich August 2, 2012 at 10:46 am #

    What she said!

    I’m not much interested in sport either – unless it involves internal combustion engines and four wheels – but one little piece of advice I’d like to give to sports journalists everywhere is:

    “To medal” is not a verb!! Please stop abusing our language!


  8. Hypocritophobe August 2, 2012 at 11:21 am #

    Segue on media;

    Is it it just me, or…. (compare)




    • Jennifer Wilson August 2, 2012 at 5:32 pm #

      Thanks Hypo, sorry to be slow to release you from the spam bin, been travelling to Queensland to spend weekend with Archie.

      Have chnaged the number so unless you put in dozens you should escape spam goal from now on. 🙂


      • Hypocritophobe August 2, 2012 at 5:45 pm #

        No worries.
        Enjoy it (QLD) despite Newman and his beguiled supporters.


  9. hudsongodfrey August 2, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

    To start with Nine’s Olympic coverage is so shit that it makes us feel like we’re in some tin pot third rate country where we couldn’t even organise to tape things overnight and play them back in prime viewing hours for the Southern hemisphere.

    As for the attitudes to sport and the eternal criticism of athletes whose achievements in winning Silver are stellar to the tune of all but 1 in seven billion humans on the planet, well we never really cared for anything but Gold in any Olympics and I guess this one is no different. There seems to be an unnecessary focus on disappointment and petulance from within the media, but I suppose we can expect there to be a story even if the one that we’d hoped for refuses to materialise and they have to go with the eternal default position whereby bad news outranks positivity.

    Liking sport seems to be equated with embracing the hype that goes with it ever since the Olympics acquiesced to the almighty marketing dollar and largely forgot anything it ever knew about amateur status in sport and promoting international harmony etc….

    The idea that being a good athlete has anything to do with being a “role model” makes very little sense to me. Sure it is representative sport so they need to avoid bringing the team into disrepute, but if we can’t win many Gold medals at least it appears likely that new records will be set within the Olympic village for Condom Use!


  10. Hypocritophobe August 2, 2012 at 3:08 pm #

    With Olympics like this,who would be a taxpayer?



  11. Marilyn August 2, 2012 at 4:00 pm #

    They have the appalling Ray Warren calling the swimming and his ignorance of the sport is enough to make me cringe so I hit mute.

    But Giann Rooney is a former swimming champion and her question to Magnussen after he lost by the width of a cigarette paper was just beyond ridiculous.

    “Your tactics didn’t pay off” she says to the man.

    What the fuck was that?

    1 `100th of a second can’t be serious.


    • paul walter August 2, 2012 at 11:12 pm #

      You are onto something there Marilyn re Warren and co.They are harder than nails.


  12. Hypocritophobe August 2, 2012 at 7:46 pm #

    Woa,woa,yerrr boad,
    jennlee downa sdreem,mellery,mellelry,live is budda zreammmm



  13. Trevor Melksham August 2, 2012 at 9:04 pm #

    I think an appropriate response to the journo’s could be “so, how many Walkley’s have you won?”


  14. doug quixote August 2, 2012 at 10:25 pm #

    Oh, I don’t know. The British Navy once executed a British admiral for failing to attack the enemy strongly enough.

    Executing an athlete or two might have a salutary effect on the rest, and start a gold-rush . . .

    the fact is that winning a gold medal is worth many thousands, in some cases millions and a career set up for life. It is hardly surprising if an athlete missing out by a mere touch on the wall or a hundreth of a second will be devastated – and not merely because the joy of winning has eluded them.

    The media behave like they always will, in a feeding frenzy of adulation or of persecution, depending on the winning or not winning as the case may be. No prizes for second.


  15. Marilyn August 4, 2012 at 6:21 pm #

    I found a documentary serires called The Tower which showed the so-called regeneration of much of the area where the olympics are being done and it showed the dirty, sleazy side of the mess called Pepys estate and the mentality of the council who built the dreadful places and the people who gentrified them and it actually shocked me.

    London is a cess pit, that is the bottom line.


  16. helvityni August 5, 2012 at 11:40 am #

    Who wants be an Olympian, who wants to be a politician, who wants to be an artist, a writer,a movie maker, an overweight person, wear a wrong kind of jacket, with a media like ours…


    • Mindy August 5, 2012 at 7:07 pm #

      Well said. If only I had my own hugely profitable mining operation so that I could buy my own media empire and actually report news.


  17. doug quixote August 11, 2012 at 6:09 pm #

    A question : Is anyone else as pissed off with 9’s Olympic coverage as I am?

    It is the one time in 4 years we get to see elite sports :

    have we seen : fencing? javelin? weight lifting? high jump? triple jump? even boxing? tennis? football? archery? shooting? After the Aussies are eliminated, that is.

    Not a fucking moment! It is just not good enough, and the wooden presenters ought to be stuffed and mounted. The breakfast pair of idiots are not worth feeding.

    Pathetic. And don’t start me on the cross-promotions . . .


    • hudsongodfrey August 11, 2012 at 6:35 pm #

      I still haven’t bolt’s run in either the 100 metres or 200 metres on nine. If it wasn’t for YouTube I suspect I’d never have seen it at all.


      • doug quixote August 11, 2012 at 9:00 pm #

        Bolt? I’ve seen it dozens of times! Try to avoid blinking, however . . .


    • paul walter August 11, 2012 at 11:47 pm #

      Doug, EVERYONE is pissed off with nine’s coverage. Chauvinistic, monotonously self promoting, and opportunistic in the way it feeds off the success or failure of athletes,it also cold-blooded in its graphic presentation and sound compression, as to the brainwashing component.
      Mindy, why would you want to be some thing as low as a media proprietor?
      To change it, methinks.
      I suspect you would be an exponential improvement on those running it currently, so hurry up and get rich.


  18. Hypocritophobe October 16, 2012 at 10:56 pm #

    For those readers needing a good laugh and unaware Mark ‘Rubber Chicken’ Scott was an aspiring stand-up comedian, specialising in ‘irony’.

    “There’s no need to impose that standard because those safeguards and accountabilities are built in already into our governing structure in a way they don’t exist, the way they are not built in, with commercial media.”



    File under :

    “I drive better when I’m pissed”
    “No more taxes”
    “I won’t come in your mouth”
    “my wife doesn’t understand me.”



  1. With media like this, who’d be an Olympian? « No Place For Sheep « Secularity - August 2, 2012

    […] media like this, who’d be an Olympian? « No Place For Sheep With media like this, who’d be an Olympian? « No Place For Sheep. Share […]


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