Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Winning and Losing?

Hey folks!

After writing about learning from each other and the amazing team spirit in the Youth Olympic Team Austria, I'd like to write something that has not yet fully landed in peoples' heads. I will pick up the topic of the YOG and media Fergus has started earlier. However, instead of turning it into a more global issue, I would like to take a different approach and describe it "from the inside". Because after all, I think that the inaugural YOG in Singapore did a far too great job as to be covered by the same approaches as the traditional Games.

One of Ferg's key point was that no story of the YOG seemed to be complete if it was not about a shiny piece of metal dangling from somebody's neck. To a certain point, that's fair play - after all, we are talking about sports and even though it should not only be about winning, doing better than somebody else is just the crucial element. However, it was definitely a disappointment to see that the media would just apply the same techniques, e.g. in storytelling, they use with every other major sports event, including the traditional Olympics. And that's a pity! Because, although being not the only player in this, the media for me is a crucial factor in reducing the image of sports to glorious winners and beaten losers.

Our Youth Olympic Team Austria accumulated a total of 6 medals - I think that's an incredible number for 16 athletes. And I can guarantee you: The atmosphere, as also described yesterday, was always filled with excitement when one of our guys or girls won a medal. First of all, we were of course really happy that one of our team mates, one of our friends, did so well in his/her competition. And on the other hand, I'd even say that we felt a little proud, because I tend to think that the encouragement and motivation from within the team also amounted a tiny little bit to the success.

However, it would be absolutely wrong to think that the medals were the only events the atmosphere was like this. I vividly remember how excited everybody was about our gymnast reaching the final and becoming an excellent 12th overall. Of course, who would care about becoming 12th in traditional story telling? But not only for us, the achievement our girl made that day was tremendous and definitely worth sharing with the world.

Or take the example of our shooter. He made a stupid mistake in his qualification round - something he told me happens every four years at best. I only heard it from someone else and expected to find him really devastated when coming home to the village at night. Far from it! He said to me: "Yeah, it was a stupid mistake and it's a pity it happened today. But life goes on and I will continue to work hard for the next competition." I think that those are remarkably wise and clever words coming from such a young athlete. And I totally believe that somebody handling a defeat like that would deserve to be reported about!

Those were just two of the countless examples I'd have. Bottom line is that there are so many stories worth telling, aside from the first three ranks. And I think that there is no better ground to take new approaches in journalism and reporting than the YOG. This is in line with something I've already written about in April:

"You might be a winner, but to be a champion, you need to show friendship, excellence and respect."

I am not saying that all the winners are no champions - absolutely not! They are great athletes and they have worked very hard for their success. But please: Let us also read and watch stories about the other champions out there. After all, they are not always marked by shiny objects dangling from their neck...

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