School sports and olympic success – let’s copy Kazakhstan!


So, our relative decline in gold medals is due to a lack of sport in schools. See here and here. Ok, let’s test this proposition.

Looking at the medal table and working down, China, the US, Great Britain, France, Russia and Italy are all three times or more our size in terms of population. So they don’t represent useful comparisons. Even South Korea is twice our size. But there is clearly one stand out example of a country we can learn from. With 6 gold and about two-thirds of our population, Kazakhstan is clearly the country we can learn from for gold medal success.

Now, using Kazakhstan as our model, clearly John Coates is simply barking up the wrong tree. For Kazakhstani-style ‘gold medal’ success we want fewer kids having access to sporting facilities. None of that indoor stadium stuff either – make the little kids freeze in the snow while practicing. And do not promote sport or physical education. Details are here.

More seriously, there are three points here:

  1. It denigrates our sportsmen and women to downplay their amazing success because they do not get ‘enough’ gold medals;
  2. The soul searching from our ‘failure’ will result in numerous claims, like John Coates’ statement, that are unsubstantiated by any evidence; and
  3. I have seen such ‘failures’ before. They will result in a mass of lobbying and rent seeking by sporting groups post-olympics. So taxpayers beware – you are about to have your wallets and purses raided by sporting lobbyists who will want to spend your money to support ‘olympic glory’ – by backing their own pet projects.
6 Responses to "School sports and olympic success – let’s copy Kazakhstan!"
  1. Has anyone analysed the educational backgrounds of our elite champions? If it turned out that a disproportionate number went to non-government schools, what conclusions & recommendations could be drawn?

  2. I suspect that much sports funding for olympic success is like spending on an arm’s race – socially wasteful. An example being Australia and UK independently investing in ‘electric shorts’ for track cyclists.

    IOC should be a forum for countries to agree not to spend. Not likely I know…

  3. I agree, something else to take into account the easier access to higher level competition ‘internationally’ – or just a short bus/train ride away. A country need not have a large population competing domestically, when it has access to a high quality competition near by.

  4. Agree with your three points, Stephen. One also has to remember that the number of gold medals is rather noisy signals for whatever underlying trend there might be. One cold day does not make a winter. The number of medals seems a better measure. And on that count Australia seems to do fine (certainly compared to Germany which has four times as many inhabitants.) Plus the games are not over until they are over 😉 … Just a few days ago the English thought their home-advantage was a mirage, now it turns out that it has given them some serious traction after all.

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