Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Alphabet Lottery

As years go, 2012 hasn't been a bad one from a sporting perspective. So it was always going to be interesting to see who got what when it came to the traditional New Year's Honours announcement.

Whatever your opinion of the honours system and whether it should exist at all, it gives a reflection of what the "establishment" thinks of the recipients achievements during the year.

The higher up the MBE-OBE-CBE-Knighthood-Peerage ladder you appear, the "greater" your achievement is regarded as being.

Some honours were fairly obvious. Nobody would deny that Bradley Wiggins career achievements, both on the track and on the road, are not worthy of a knighthood given the precedent set by giving one to Sir Chris Hoy.

Likewise Dave Brailsford, who has revolutionised British cycling with his approach to the sport making it the most successful track cycling nation in the world.

Staying on the cycling theme, Sarah Storey's achievements both as a Paralympic cyclist and previously as a swimmer mark her out as being more than worthy of a Damehood. And this is where things start to get a little complicated and in my view, discriminatory.

Let me get this straight. I have no axe to grind with Jessica Ennis. She's done well for herself, winning titles at major Championships. Being a multi-eventer is the most difficult challenge for an athlete. She was under immense pressure heading into London 2012, and coped with it admirably to win gold. She was rewarded with a CBE, same as Mo Farah who achieved something only six other men in history had achieved - the 5 and 10k double.

Let's compare their career achievements with our next recipient of the CBE.

Six time Olympic gold medallist.
Six time World Championship gold medallist
Six time London Marathon Winner
Four time Great North Run winner
Winner of the New York Marathon

No offence to either Ennis or Farah, but I don't think you can possibly say that their career achievements are even close to being on the same scale.

The winner of all these honours is a guy called David Weir. So why isn't Weir getting a Knighthood?

Pretty simple really. He's in a wheelchair. This, in the eyes of those responsible for dishing out the honours, clearly diminishes his achievements somehow.

Much was made after the massive success of the Paralympics about the terrific example set by the athletes in their triumphs over personal adversity, and how it would change the UK's attitude to disability and disability sport in particular.

While it may have had a short-term impact, it appears that warm glow has worn off and the disabled and disability sport have returned to their normal place in the public consciousness.

More's the pity.

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