Monday, August 22, 2016

Olympian Brexit

We’ve done it! Team GB have won more medals in Rio than we did in the 2012 London Olympics . . . and we’re up with China at the top of the medals table. How can a tiny country with a population of around only 65 Million do so well on the world stage? Four years ago we could put it down to ‘home advantage’, but not this time. What is it in our make-up and how we work that has enabled such remarkable achievements?

Olympic Games Rio 2016 - Final Medal standings











   2 GB     










And, as we prepare for the next phase of our countries future, how can we apply the positive lessons from our on-going Olympic success to Brexit?

First, we probably also need to acknowledge the significance of the National Lottery funding. And not just for the way that it enables the athletes to focus on their Olympic preparations:

I can’t speak for others, but when I buy a lottery ticket or scratch card, of course I want to win! But when I don’t, I just think “it’s supporting our athletes in Rio”, and that makes me smile. I’m glad to be part of their success. In business parlance, I’ve become a stakeholder. It’s human nature: the more we feel part of something the better we’ll support it and throw ourselves behind it.

And it doesn’t stop there. Time and again, in their post competition interviews, Team GB stars will give their genuine “Thank You” to the Lottery .. . . and thus to everyone who buys a ticket. And they share their appreciation for ‘all the support from back home’. All of this, from the sportsmen and women and from the public, is heartfelt. We all mean it. It comes from the depth of being human, of caring. And why do we care?

Winners we can relate to
These athletes could be, and often are, the boy or girl next door. Ordinary British folk like us. All these factors contribute to the feeling that we’re in this together. This is the ultimate Team GB: not just the athletes in the public eye, but the back-room support staff and the friends, families and neighbours flying the flag . . . often literally.

It’s widely accepted that nothing succeed likes success. When young athletes training alongside reigning champions, it’s not just the best techniques they pick up: attitudes, states of  mind, commitment all rub off. Likewise, once a team has a few world class members, so they feed off each other, spur each other on. Competitive yes, but in a win-win way: all members of the team benefit . . . it’s not just for personal achievement . . . it’s for the country.

So many Brits who reached the Rio medals podium recognised, in their interviews afterwards, the importance of what they were doing not just for their sport but for everybody: providing a glimpse of a new activity, a chance of glory, an enjoyable way of getting fit. They have a fighting spirit, but it’s infectious, it’s to be shared. They want everybody to benefit.

Confidence with Humility
Cricket may not be part of the Olympic Games, but the idea of fair play exists in both . . . and many would say that the Brits invented fair-play. There’s nothing wrong with taking pride in winning, or wanting to win, so long as we also recognise the value of taking part and compete with respect. You probably can’t win without a huge amount of self-belief, but that doesn’t means we can’t also be magnanimous in defeat and appreciative of a game well played. 

These are the traits of being British. It is these characteristics and related ways of working that took us to the top tier of two Olympic games. To succeed in the world’s commercial arena as we are succeeding in global sport we just have to do the same things . . . and be ourselves!

Follow your bliss
GB’s winning Olympians come in all shapes, sizes and ages from 16 year old Amy Tinkler (Floor Gymnastic Bronze) to golden show-jumper Nick Skelton (aged 58). We can‘t all be Pelé but we all need to succeed at something. For most of us it may not be at Olympic level nor necessarily in sport, but we all have something to contribute to Great Britain. The trick is to find out what. Time and again we heard how our medallists had tried many sports and events before finding the one that was right for them. By being open, willing to try something different, and this applies to all of us, we’re far more likely to find our niche . . . our reason for being here.

It’s well known that the British are excellent at rowing and are world beating cyclists, but our second place in the Rio medal table came through success in 16 different sports. In the athletes’ village and in the pubs and lounges around the country, they’re all British, all part of the same team, each playing their part in the best way they’re able. The same is true in all walks of life: we find our niche, do our bit in our part of our particular team and, by pulling together, pride in our personal achievement mirrors an inclusive, national pride.

Success beyond Rio
As our returning athletes set their sights on Tokyo and 2020, the rest of us can follow their example and be inspired to do our bit for Team GB. The lessons for post-EU Britain are many and positive. With belief tempted by humility, by caring about each other, by committing to a shared role within Team GB, Brexit provides the opportunity to shine beyond the sporting arenas just as we have within them.

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