Performance at what price?

Watching the remarkable performances of athletes in Tokyo, in empty stadia amidst a worsening local pandemic and listening in parallel to stories of mental health pressures driving world class athletes, like Simone Biles, and Ben Stokes prompts me to ask just what is going on here?

What is the real purpose of these events?

The answer I suggest is our lowest common denominator for everything – money. The increasing privatisation of the commons, from healthcare to education to sport. The data – the record beating performances– give an indication of apparent success, but at what price? Who benefits most – the TV networks, the host cities, the sponsors, the audiences, or the sports themselves?

It seems analogous to the lessons we have been learning on farming, as we discover that soil health is dependent on considerate, not intense use. Quite simply, not overworking it, leaving it fallow and subject to rotation is vital. The same is probably true of our athletes, our medical professionals, and others. When tough, committed, resilient talent like Biles and Stokes , are worked so intensely that they must pull out for the sake of their mental health, what does that say about the way we treat everybody else – those less visible, without such a visible platform?

We look to our sports stars for inspiration and example and that, perhaps, is just what they are doing. The rest of us can learn from them.

Life is about more than performance and money.

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