It has been less than 24 hours since the last swimming race was held at the Rio Aquatics Centre, and already I've read a handful of articles online claiming our swim team has, once again, let us down.
I'd like you to take a moment to think about how Kyle Chalmers might be feeling about that sentiment. And Mack Horton. And Madeline Groves, who, after swimming a huge best time in the final of the 200m butterfly at her first Olympics, won Australia a silver medal. And these swimmers aren't the only ones who put everything they had into one race that potentially only lasted 21 seconds, and came away with an incredible result on the world's biggest stage. The people who are saying that our swim team has failed should be ashamed of themselves.
The way I see it, there's two parts to their argument. First of all, that the swimmers should have won more gold medals, and because they didn't, they let Australia down.
How is it exactly that the swimmers have let Australia down? What will change in the lives of Australians because of the results at the Olympics? Will there be rioting in the streets? Will children starve or animals be neglected? Will the country go to ruin?
We all love swimming so much in this country that sometimes we forget that, in the end, it is a sport. It is a form of entertainment. It has been such a large source of love and joy for so many generations of Australians that it is a part of our cultural fabric, a part of our national identity. But the ugly side to our identity is that we place such high expectations on our swimmers, and are far too quick to cut them down when they fall short of those incredibly lofty goals.
The second part to the argument that some people are propagating is that we shouldn't have spent an alleged $40 million over the past four years on the sport of swimming.
Well this is, of course, a uninformed remark. $40 million over four years is a drop in the ocean in terms of Government budgets. Did we de-fund our military when it failed to help the US win the Iraq War? Should we provide less money to hospitals when patients die or get sick? Do we de-fund the arts when an Australian film fails to get nominated for an Oscar?
The reason we provide money to swimming, or to any sport for that matter, is because we have decided, as a nation, that it is in our national best interest to do so. Swimming has provided over 100 years of joy to generations of Australians -- it is a sport that can be enjoyed by participants and spectators from cradle to grave. We provide money to Swimming Australia to administer the sport of swimming: from the grass roots to the Olympic level, and we do this because, as a rich nation, we want to and we can. It's as simple as that.
As to whether we should provide as much money as $10 million per year... well, the Australian Sports Commission overhauled their funding system four years ago, and funding dollars are allocated to Olympic sports based on the number of medals they generate at the Olympics. Whether that is fair or not is not the argument that these people want to make. They simply want to propagate the ugly side of Australian culture -- tall poppy syndrome.
So maybe we should take a good hard look at ourselves before we start to point the finger of blame at a group of young Australians who are, individually and as a team, a group of people who we should be proud of. They are hard-working, clean, dedicated role models who, because of their pursuits at these Games, will inspire a generation of young Australians to strive for their best. And isn't that the type of young person we want to promote in Australia?