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Media’s silver medal coverage of Olympics

It hasn’t been Australia’s greatest Olympics. That much is obvious. What is less obvious is who is to blame. Cause if we’re not winning gold someone is at fault. The result of this apparent lack of success has been a witch-hunt. First it was the government for not giving enough money for our elite athletes. If we spent that little bit more we’d be swimming in gold, not silver. Then we blamed ourselves, the public, and the parents of these athletes for putting too much pressure on them to succeed. But our fiercest condemnation has been against the media. Since it became obvious our swimmers weren’t going to do as well as anticipated we turned on the local media for their lack of empathy.

 

There has been a massive backlash against the media from athletes, officials and the public about how they have covered the Olympics. They have all condemned what they say has been ‘negative’ coverage about the Olympics. The argument goes; the Olympics is a global competition and it’s incredibly hard to win a gold win so there should be no shame in winning silver. That is a completely legitimate argument. It is hard to win any event at the Olympics, that’s why we go crazy when someone wins a medal. Remember when Michael Diamond won gold in the shooting at Atlanta? Or Cathy in Sydney? Or the men’s 4x100m relay which was meant to be ‘smashed like guitars?’ These victories remain in the nation’s psyche because they are victories on the world stage against all the odds.

 

However rage and argument against the media’s coverage of the games assumes that they are not celebrating silver. This is not the case. The media showed their patriotic colours when the unknown Melissa Fox won silver in the K1 canoe slalom. Fox was the front page darling because she punched above her weight and achieved something exceptional on the world stage. What the media has commented on are those people who haven’t performed to their peak. It was predicted that our swimmers would win a swag of gold but they didn’t, they underperformed. And like any sporting team or individual, there lack of success was talked about in the media.

 

Finally, the media have also been unjustly criticised about how the cover disappointed athletes. The most notable example of this was Emily Seebohm’s breakdown after winning silver in the 100m backstroke. Many criticised Seebohm and media for not celebrating her second place in the world. Such an argument does a disservice to Emily and the swimming team in general. Emily got to where she is because she’s a competitor. For her, like many other athletes, second is simply not good enough. She came into the final as the favourite and when she lost she was justified in being upset. It would have been like Usain Bolt coming second in the 100m final. These results are all about context. Our 400m male runner Steven Soloman deserves to be proud of his achievement for reaching the final and coming last because he performed to his best. Seebohm is allowed to be upset for coming second because she thought she had a chance at gold. She should not be condemned for wanting to be the best in the world and just missing out. If anything she should be celebrated because that’s the psyche that makes a champion. The media covered both these stories in the manner the athlete perceived the event and that’s no reason to condemn the athletes or the reporters that cover these events.

:: Ewen Hollingsworth

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