27 medals in total, has Putin done a good job?

I am quite far from sports and not very interested watching competitions on TV, but one thing I notice from time to time is the following and it is something we would be better curing going forward (yet I don’t know how to cure this).

People tend to associate results in sports with performance of current political regime or even personality of a particular president. Olympic games in Sochi are not officially closed yet, and currently Russian team has 27 medals in total. Many people are asking questions like “Has Putin done a good job?” or stating something like “Ha-ha, you see, 27 medals, $50B were spent for good!”. Some people are wondering if the medal plan has been met.

This is a completely wrong thinking pattern. This is unhealthy thinking pattern.

Politicians and bureaucrats were there organizing Olympic facilities and infrastructure. They were on administrative side of things and we can analyze how good their performance by looking at the actual stuff they did and actual price they paid (of our money) and whether or not there were any better ways spending all this money (there always were).

The actual score of the national sport team is irrelevant. Sport is captured by national propaganda machine whether it is Russia or any other country, but it doesn’t mean you should follow irrational way of thinking. Putin hasn’t been a trainer of any of the sportsmen performing on these games. He didn’t jump from the springboard even once, he didn’t stay on snowboard even a minute. He wasn’t there competing at all with all these officials fantasizing about how many medals “should we win”. Officials are not winning these medals, particular sportsmen do. And trying to mix themselves in sport victories of sportsmen is at least incorrect and questionable from moral standpoint.

Consider this. Israel has 0 medals. Has prime-minister Netanyahu done a lousy job? Doesn’t this sound ridiculous? Yes, Israel doesn’t have world class athletes for winter games, and it is a hot tropical country. So what prime-minister has to do with this calamity? Nothing. Denmark and Andorra, I believe these are quite relevant countries for winter sports have 0 medals. Has this happen because Helle Thorning-Schmidt done a bad job (PM of Denmark) or probably it was Antoni Martí who failed miserably (PM of Andorra)? I think somehow these gentlemen are not really blamed for the results national teams have.

However, somehow we connect two things together: “Putin has a lot of power and influence in Russia” and “Olympic team should perform well”. How much power Putin needs to speed our ski sportsmen up? I don’t have an answer for this, I even think his power doesn’t work any meaningfully here even if Putin was an emperor or a king.

The particular performance of the sportsmen could be above expectations or below expectations set by his trainer, not some sports minister or president. If it is above expectations — fantastic. If it is below.. well, I don’t know, may be a bad luck, may be some health/psychological/emotional condition played its role. Putin is not present in this situation either way. It is personal success or failure of a particular sportsman.

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2 Responses to 27 medals in total, has Putin done a good job?

  1. Professional sport is a very expensive thing. Trainers, doctors, service men. Building and maintaining a sledge track, or a snowboard half pipe requires enormous amount of money every day, it needs everyday work to function. Even famous sportsmen cannot pay for all this stuff. So the government has been financing hundreds of sportsmen many-many years. Thousands of trainers, doctors, service men, managers were paid to help the sportsmen to prepare for the games.
    So I would say that money is the pre-requisite for Olympic medals. No money – no honey 🙂

    P.S. I am not a fan of Putin. I wish he would have spent $50b differently.

    • Well, I agree with expensiveness of professional sports. There are many expensive things under the sun though. For example, aerospace technology is complex and expensive, yet it is possible to operate it without massive subsidies (See this for instance). So it is not generally true that we can’t have something expensive unless the governmant provide us with it.

      With respect to professional sports I suggest taking into consideration the following:

      Sportsmen’s personal disposable income (for instance Hockey players have generally good income) and government money are not the only funding sources to pay for trainers, doctors, equipment and facilities. Big sportsmen are usually making good money, but I believe much more is coming from team sponsors and advertisers and this is spent on things like equipment and trainers, doctors. After all, if I was a sport equipment manufacturer, would I refuse to give a few pairs of skies to Olympic team for free? I think this is a great advertising thing that doens’t cost much. I would probably even pay to sportsmen to use my equipment, not equipment produced by my competitors. I would suspect that in general, any sportsmen would prefere private sponsor to government because of less paper work and shorter waiting times.

      Secondly, you said professional sport is expensive thing, but I would suggest it is a business, a commercial enterprise. Or, alternatively, in places like North Korea it is probably a public service (mainly to entertain population). Like with all businesses, it would be better earning money, not wasting taxpayer money. This is a healthy way to control its costs structure.

      Once we clarified all this, I would suggest that we in Russia have insufficient privately operated sports infrastructure that doesn’t satisfy sportsmen requirements. This is true. We need more private enterprise to invest in such infrastructure. And this infrastructure should be available for both public and sportsmen. I can imagine swimming pool to reserve some timespans for Olympic team trainings (and it is compensated for this by the sport team from their budget), but apart from that it is normal swimming pool, where normal people go and pay for it. Whenever it doesn’t make financial sense to build facility (for instance I have no idea who on earth would use professional sledge track in if not professional sportsmen), multiple national teams might utilize existing infrastructure in countries where it does exist, so these facilities are fully utilized and therefore not loosing money. Alternatively they might get creative and find some other ways to traing themselves, or probably not perform in these disciplines at all if there is no means for it (after all, it is not absolutely required to have the biggest team performing at each and every discipline).

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