When Bradley Wiggins sat on the gold medallist’s ‘throne’ after winning the Olympic cycling time trial, I thought that he was being ironic and not in any way suggesting that he should be in the running a knighthood.
But it seems I might have been wrong, at least if the media is to be believed. Apparently our 100 plus medallists are going to be terribly upset if there isn’t a gong for each forthcoming in the New Year’s honours list.
Of course sportsmen didn’t used to get honours – they were the preserve of the great and the not so good, politicians, diplomats, senior civil servants and the like. Then the great and the not so good realised there was kudos to be had by sharing the prizes with popular heroes.
The really important gongs used to be reserved for the sporting greats long after they had retired – people like Bobby Charlton, Henry Cooper, Roger Bannister and Mary Peters – but things began to go awry when the politicians wanted to cash in on immediate popularity.
A knighthood for Chris Hoy after the Beijing Olympics was a typical New Labour populist ploy. The problem was that it was clear that Sir Chris was still competing and would be at London 2012, so what if he then performed even greater athletic feats?
But politicians don’t worry about things like that, filing them in the cabinet marked SEP.
The question though is why are we getting so het up about honours for medallists? Surely a gold, silver or bronze medal is their ultimate accolade, not a string of letters they can add to their names on their stationary.
I suppose the acid test would be to propose an exchange of medals for honours – one gold for an MBE up to five golds for knighthood. Seems fair to me, but I suspect the Olympians wouldn’t agree to the deal.