Monday, July 13, 2009

This is no trick

The Sunday Star Times came out with this: Olympian pimps bid with fundraising trick. Logan Campbell an Olympic hopeful in 2008 is trying to fund his bid for 2012 by opening what he describes as a "high class escort agency". It isn’t a trick - this is called making a living and I hope that the publicity helps the business.

In terms of being “traditional” or “old fashioned” Taekwondo is nothing short of prehistoric, at least it is in New Zealand. In going public over his new business venture I suspect Logan will have done a little bit more than surprise people. He will have upset some and deeply offended others; I would be truly interested in what his instructor has to say - especially now the story has gone global. I hope the tale sparks a wider debate about the role of minor sports, small nations and what professional funding means in modern Olympism, but I’m not holding my breath.

It is not for me to defend the legitimacy of running an escort agency or even to argue that Logan’s case is a special one amongst the athletes who compete in sports that are regarded as minor in terms of national importance. The only thing I really take issue with is that anyone has the right to call his actions disreputable or inappropriate. The Logan Campbell I know is a nice guy, dedicated, bright, articulate and generally well meaning.

The quote by John Schofield of Taekwondo "Selection takes into account not just performance but also the athlete's ability to serve as an example to the youth of the country.", typifies what has been a difficult relationship between Campbell and the sport he loves. Perhaps what Schofield should have said, is something along the lines of - ”whilst we don’t necessarily approve of these actions it does highlight the difficulties surrounding the finances for all aspiring New Zealand Olympians in minor sports”. Given that performance funding for all but a restricted number of sports in NZ is largely discretionary and unpredictable, it was perhaps wise not to rock the boat. The NZOC and SPARC’s National academy are far from perfect organisations, but I strongly believe that the root of this problem rests with a genuine lack of will on the part of successive governments to actually promote sport rather than winning. What politicians want is medals and trophies, the approach to sport funding continues to reflect this.

High performance sport funding in New Zealand is broken; spending increasing amounts of cash on a diminishing pool of athletes in order to “punch above our weight on the international stage” is a strategy that is doomed to failure in the long term. There will come a point when there will not be enough quality performers and nothing like enough money to pull this off. It may well be the case that the whole notion of performance sport funding needs to be debated in terms of viability and usefulness. As long as high performance sport funding remains a populist cash cow then no one has the right to judge those with the dedication and industry to seek independent means whatever the method.

Some things you may not know about Logan Campbell: He

Has been in Taekwondo from a young age.
Narrowly missed out on going to the Athens Olympics at age 19.
Is a drug-free athlete.
Is dyslexic.
Was training twice a day most days in the 9 months preceding the Beijing Olympics.
Put off his last year of study at university in order to prepare for the Olympics.
Sold his car to fund a training trip to Europe.
Left New Zealand for Beijing with one sponsor (I think).
Attended at least three schools making presentations before leaving for Beijing while many other athletes were already at camps, this he did out of love for his sport.

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