Spectators from across the land and throughout the world have flocked to see sporting prowess at its highest level and not many have been left disappointed.
Empty seats dominated the headlines at the start of the games with the Aquatic Centre and the North Greenwich Arena taking the flak in particular for the Swimming and Gymnastic respectively. Sports that were full to the brim however were the truly minor disciplines, such as Handball, Water Polo and Volleyball with spectators enjoying the chance to watch an event they would not otherwise have been able to.
So it prompts a question. How do we keep these sports that struggle for publicity outside of an Olympic Games, yet generate so much enthusiasm, within the public eye?
One solution could be to create an annual international league system where nations are grouped into leagues of four, competing against each other home and away in head to head weekend fixtures over the space of a year. The premise of this would be to use the recent Olympic medal table to split the nations into their respective groups. For example USA, China, GB and Russia would enter the top group based on them finishing in the top 4 spots of the medal table. In the second group South Korea, Germany, France and Italy would battle it out and so on.
Within each Olympic sport, bar those with already hectic annual schedules, competitors could take each other on to gain points for their respective countries. A quota of competitors could be allocated per sport for each nation dependant on the sport, so in Hockey there would clearly be no need for more than one team per nation whereas in Athletics each team could have three competitors per event.
Three points could be awarded to the winner of each separate event, with two points to second and one to third with all points being totalled up at the end of the weekend event to see which nation comes out on top. By using a similar system to football, the winning nation with the most points won overall in the meet could pick up three points towards the overall league table. At the end of the year the nation with the lowest points in each group would then be relegated to the next group down whilst the nation with the highest amount of points would be promoted to the league above them (except in the case of the top group).
It’s an idea that would take a lot of work to organise and convince all nations to take part but in the long term it can only be good for the future of sport.
I could list a whole list of arguments for such an idea but I’ll just make a few points. Firstly it would mean that the world class facilities that have been expensively assembled would not go to waste. The Olympic stadium is a phenomenal piece of construction, that unless it is given to a football team will simply never achieve the usage it deserves; likewise the Aquatic Centre. Sure they could be used for the occasional meets but will they ever achieve the interest that these Olympics have? In a word, no, because the competitors compete as individuals rather than as nations and the national aspect is what makes the minor sports attractive to the Average Joe.
Secondly for the athletes it would transform their lives and make funding a lot more attainable from outside sponsors. If the event could be televised, as it most likely would be, these athletes would be broadcasted across the country and its competitors’ offering a fantastic sponsorship opportunity for major companies. The extra funding would be enough to let the athletes focus on their sport rather than worry about financial difficulties and this in turn would surely improve the standard of performances for those sports where there is little to no money distributed.
As a third and final point, but most important, the availability of seeing these sports on a regular basis would offer the minor sports a greater opportunity to gain coverage and additional supporters and participants. The afore-mentioned Handball, Water Polo and Volleyball disciplines are largely discarded as sports across Britain because other sports dominate meaning these small fishes are eaten up by the giants of British sport. As a result of focusing so heavily on Football, we may not be aware that we have the potential to field a world class team in the minor disciplines. Even Badminton, Table Tennis, Rowing and Gymnastics have low participation figures that could be improved greatly through more exposure.
Of course this radical idea would have the purists screaming blue murder that this competition would eradicate the importance of the Olympic Games and their point is fair, but there is no reason why the League would need to be compared to the Olympics at all. Within each Olympic sport there already exists World Championships and none would say that this devalues the Olympics.
World Sport is at an all time high following London’s excellent stewardship of the games and as a global entity we must be pro-active to ensure that we continue to inspire and deliver sport amongst the human race. Such an International league would certainly be a step in the right direction.
image: © ged_uk