Team Blog

How can we assist the ‘minnow nations’ at the Olympic Games?

It might be time to extend a helping hand to less-dominant Olympic nations. Cristian Bernal

Keeping in line with my wish to cover the other side of the Olympics beyond the pure performance side and the medal count I have been thinking about the vast majority of the more than 200 nations at the Games. Let’s refer to them as the “Minnow Nations”.

They obviously cannot compete with the likes of the USA, China, Great Britain and Australia. Many of these nations would be happy with a single medal. The winner of this medal would no doubt be a sporting hero in their native land and be a fantastic role model.

I had a meeting last week at Olympic Park in East London with Dr. Akhtar Nawaz, the Director General of the Pakistan Sport Board and an official with the Pakistan Olympic Team. He marched in the opening ceremonies along with the 30+ Pakistani athletes. He informed me that none are expected to be standing on the podium which is a shame. Back 20 years ago Pakistan did win medals in field hockey but this has fallen off due to improvements by the more developed nations.

Dr. Nawaz earned his Ph.D at Victoria University and it took him about 8 years to complete this as English and research skills had to be mastered. But he persisted and received his degree with a comparative study on the Australian and Pakistan sport systems. His desire now is to improve sport participation and sporting excellence in his country. For part of his time at VU the Australian Sports Commission generously gave him a scholarship as he was from a developing nation.

Now he feels that it is time to have a major review of sport in Pakistan and an international conference with key guest speakers and researchers could form a key component of this. Once again maybe the ASC could assist. The IOC has its Solidarity Grants program to assist developing nations so maybe assistance will be forthcoming from this source.

Here at VU we have several key staff and researchers in our relatively new Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living (ISEAL) who could give sound advice and recommendations to Pakistan. Let’s go for a Team Effort on this one. Maybe its time for an “Adopt a Minnow” program at the Games! This could maybe contribute to a “feel good” story or two at a future Games.

Everyone loves an underdog in sport. Aren’t the Games supposed to be more than just the medal battle between the USA and China or how successful will be Team GB as the host nation?