So Ryan Giggs hopes Team GB becomes a permanent fixture at the Olympics football tournament. I don’t. There is a good reason why a British ensemble hasn’t appeared since the year dot and why it is not expected to resume. It is irrelevant, and contradictory.
The Olympic Games is about excellence, about measuring the best. In the coming weeks in London the games will determine the identity of the world’s fastest man (it might not be Usain Bolt), the quickest through water, the pre-eminent sprint cyclists, the longest jumper, the best over 26 miles, etc.
It won’t determine the best football team, nor tennis player come to that, or golfer in 2016. If Giggs were close to the supreme being that he used to be he would be touring South Africa with Manchester United.
Gail Emms, a former Olympic badminton silver medallist, put it best when she argued against the case for David Beckham’s inclusion. “The majority of athletes spend years trying to qualify for the Olympics. They don’t just turn up for them.”
Giggs is competing by virtue of a subjective selection made by a coach, not as a result of a qualifying standard reached. And his inclusion is aimed at raising the profile of the event. He is perfectly suited to the role, if not the best candidate, because the position is essentially ambassadorial.
Beckham is right to be disappointed. There is no better ambassador for his sport, and he never refused to play for his country. The irony poking holes in the Giggs selection is rooted in the number of times he pulled out of the Welsh squad through injury and subsequently his unilateral decision to ‘retire’.
This is not an anti-Giggs rant. He has been an exceptional servant to the game, if not as good a player as he might have been. But that is a debate for another day.
The idea of football’s inclusion in the Games is anathema to the principle of supremacy underpinning it. The best footballers in the world will not be here, nor, beyond perhaps the South American entrants, is it particularly high on the list of ambitions harboured by young footballers.
They aspire to the Champions League, to international selection at the European Championships and ultimately to the World Cup. That is where football determines which team is best, where reputations are made, where the greatest players gather.
I can’t wait for the Olympics. This will be my third as a reporter after Sydney and Beijing. But I shall not be attending any football matches, or the tennis. However, I shall be in the velodrome reporting on the efforts of Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton, and thereafter in the Olympic stadium itself to see the best athletes on the planet striving to etch their names into legend.
Is that what Giggs and his band of brothers will be doing? Of course not. The outcome is of no consequence to him, or to us.
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