A comparative study of elitism in sport

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A comparative study of elitism in sport between France, United Kingdom and the United States of America. The nature of elite sport is at the very top of the sports ladder, it is one in which the performers are no longer doing it to achieve intrinsic goals but are trying to perform for their country, where the pressure is great and all the countries eyes are on you to do well. There is an obvious difference between France, United Kingdom and the United States, this represented in the way in which each country performs in each world wide sporting event at elite level.

In this essay I will find out and justify the reasons why the US always manage to win the Olympics, why France have one so many football championships in recent years. But most importantly why it seems that the UK in these present times are lacking in top level sport performances and why there haven’t been any national trophies won by a UK national team in a long time. Before I can take the look at the most successful of the three countries I have to assess the nature of an elite sport before I can accurately make a judgement of them.

I’m going to look at the eight areas, which demonstrate this, the most. The commercial aspect of the sports within that country, the pressure that each sports performer has in each country, the globalisation of the sports they play, the deviance in sport than can occur, the political aspects of a sport, the nationalism and patriotism that each country shows and the grass roots of each countries main sports. I think that nowadays in this era of a consumer based society that any sport will not be able to survive without some form of commercial sponsorship.

We only have to look on sky sports or any sports coverage to figure this out. For example the English football leagues changed in to become a more commercialised sport. The division one was changed into the Premiership and now is called the Carling Premiership. You can watch the sky sports network and watch Aussie rules which is sponsored by Fosters Lager, you can watch the new comer into the professional era in 1995, being rugby and it’s commercial league the Zurich Premiership. The Olympics, the World Cup, The Superbowl, they all have major sponsors and it is a massive fight to sponsor these events.

With these sort of sports becoming so commercialised and the way in which televisions have become so popular it has lead to spectatorism and so commercial messages can be fed to the public through this. The other form of commercialisation is the way in which each team now sponsors a logo or two on the sports kit they wear e. g. Tottenham and Holsten Pils, Anna Kournikova and the massive amount of money she makes for wearing certain clothes. Commercialisation has occurred all over the world, in France, the UK but nowhere as much as in the US, the home of the capitalist ideals, that dominate the western world.

For an advertisement during the Superbowl it cost an amazing $3 million for 30 seconds, yet companies still buy the slots because so many people are watching. Commercialisation is such a major part of the nature of elite sport. An elite sports person has to in a lot of cases perform to earn their livelihood, as in all jobs the money is right at the top and you have to perform well to get there. This obviously leads to a great amount of pressure being put on the performer both intrinsically and extrinsically.

There is an intrinsic pressure that you perform well for yourself and so you can go out there and earn a lot of money. There is also an extrinsic pressure of having people watch you, being the coaches, the international selectors and the spectators. You, have to perform in front of these to get a good image and name so you can make it to the top of the ladder. Obviously this pressure is of a great amount; you could argue that pressure enhances your game but it all depends of what personality characteristics you have developed.

Too much pressure can lead to over arousal and anxiety as shown on the “inverted U theory”. Such pressure is shown by the way in which the spectators react to events. It was not long ago that the Tottenham fans were booing their manager, after a while the management sacked him. The only way in which we judge the team’s performance is whether they have won or lost. People have been having digs at English sport for some time now because as a nation they have not won anything, no world cups, no European championships, not many medals at the Olympics or world championships, poor cricket results.

All of this adds pressure to the performers as they don’t want to let there country down. The American public feels the same and that’s why all American teams have ‘the win at all costs’ ethic. Yet I feel that neither France nor America feel as much pressure as they have one international trophy and this is something for the public to focus on. With so much pressure on the performers it leads to deviance in sport, when winning is all that matters for some athletes, they do not care how they achieve it. This can be through taking performance enhancing drugs or cheating whilst playing the game.

It leaves sport with a bad name and is one of the only downfalls of sport in this professional era, it sends the wrong message to young children puts the sport into disrepute. A place where performance-enhancing drugs are found a lot is in athletics where only your body’s capabilities can actually judge where you finish. There are so many performance enhancing drugs out there and so many examples of sports people taking them, one of the most memorable is Ben Johnston in the 1988 Seoul Olympic games where after winning the 100m in a world record 9.

79 secs he was tested positive for taking anabolic steroids. There are many other instances and bans for taking steroids, a more recent controversy was at the Edmonton World Championships in which, Paula Radcliffe was demonstrating against the long distance runner Yegorova running when she had been tested positive for the human hormone EPO, which increase the oxygen carrying capacity and there helps an endurance athlete. Other drugs which are taken are stimulants in particular amphetamines which increase alertness and physical ability, used in gymnastics because of the strength to size ration needed.

Other examples are the use of diuretics in boxing and judo to get into a different weight division. There are so many drugs on the market and I’m sure there are some used which can not yet be detected by tests. This is the temptation for top athletes to go to, because of the pressures to win. You can not condone this but you can at least understand why these athletes do it, they risk doing damage to their bodies just to win.

Other deviance include cheating in the game whether this be through ‘gamesmanship’ or downright cheating it emphasises the ‘win at all costs’ theory. This could be through the professional foul in football or the match fixing in cricket they all are down to the will to succeed no matter how and ultimately the money from winning. The clubs encourage this by offering the players win bonuses, so ultimately in every country this happens, but whom can you blame the fans, the clubs, the players or maybe even the governments?

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