Levelling the playing field…

– Numbers have been updated on the 23/08/2016 –

South African Van Niekerk’s world record in 400m sprint (43.03 seconds). The first ever Olympic Games’ medal for Fiji (in rugby sevens). Standing ovations for the first team of refugee athletes to compete. Michael Phelps winning his 28th medal, making him the most decorated male Olympian of all time…

As well as the sporting achievements, the Olympics have also drawn attention to the subject of inequality. Thomas Bach, current president of the International Olympic Committee, announced that these games would be “the most inclusive Olympic Games ever.” Given the present situation in Rio, there has been well-deserved scepticism about these comments. The question of the benefits the Games have actually brought to Rio have been much discussed in the light of corruption scandals, favela evictions, misplaced infrastructure expenditure and unaffordable ticket prices.

LMDF has taken their own view on inequality at the Olympics by comparing the achievements in the Games of countries in which it invests with those of the countries from which its staff come from. The countries in which LMDF invests are some of the poorest in the world and furthest down the Human Development Index. Global inequalities are put in stark contrast by the figures. Luxembourg and Haiti have, for instance, had the same number of athletes qualifying for the Olympics, but Haiti has a population which is nearly eighteen times larger than Luxembourg’s. The nineteen countries in which LMDF invests in have won just 28 medals, while the three countries which LMDF staff have come from have won 109; only 4 countries with which LMDF works with have won a gold medal.

This is not overly surprising. The countries in which LMDF invests are hampered by poor infrastructure and poor governance. This has implications on many areas, from healthcare, to education, factors which could easily affect young people aspiring to be athletes. Poor infrastructure can lead to isolation, and many may not be aware that events such as the Olympics are even happening.  And, put very simply, in many of the countries where LMDF works, people are unable to make the sacrifice of putting hours into training, when money is urgently needed for their families. Not everyone’s ambition is to be an Olympian, but work is certainly needed to level the playing field so more young people from developing countries can fulfil their ambitions.

Apricot Wilson