EDITORIAL: Cyprus needs a new sports plan

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If the Cyprus sports authorities ever want to get serious, they should get off their passive horse and become pro-active in order to work on a long-term plan by investing in the youth and infrastructure, while identifying potential disciplines and medal hopes for local athletes.
Foreign teams have often chosen Cyprus for their summer warm-ups prior to Olympics or other events, yet little has been utilised from this experience. Though some facilities were upgraded in the past, they remain the poor relatives of third-world stadia.
The tall stories provided for the shortcomings of the Cyprus delegation in Beijing were a poorly disguised attempt at covering up the fact that the team was insufficiently trained, badly managed and poorly equipped. Blaming it all on the courage of a number of athletes to speak out, was childish, to say the least.
President Christofias should seriously think about restructuring the official ports bodies and have them all report to a sub-ministerial post of Director of Sport Development with benefits and bonus rewards to committees and federations based on productivity, instead of allowing a few to squander the millions of the taxpayer’s moneys. Christofias promised he would invest more in education and culture. Well, sports is part and parcel of that.
What drove the likes of Stavros Tziortzis and Maroulla Lambrou to become the sports legends of Cyprus in the ’70s, if not their desire to achieve? That spirit has long been lost in Cyprus, due to the inefficient sport mechanism and the lack of desire of politicians to do something about it.
China, once mocked as “the weaklings of Asia,” won the total medal count for the Beijing Games, its total dwarfing all other nations. It has been systematically targeting every single available medal and the resources that they put toward their Olympic team and the population base and the dedication was fantastic.
The pursuit of sport should be for national pride, while the motivation ought to be societal, with benefits trickling into the areas of health and community.
In an effort to bolster its Olympic standing China embarked on a programme in which it placed particular emphasis in competitions that awarded many medals and where world competition wasn’t particularly robust. As recently as 1988, China won just five golds.
China doesn’t apologise for it. Nor should it. It has its goal and the perfect plan to attain it.
In the U.S., like in Cyprus, the athlete’s goal is most often himself. The sports that siphon off the most male athletes are football and, to a lesser extent, basketball. Combined, they yield just a single Olympic medal with Cyprus never even dreaming of getting close to qualifying.
While some Chinese, as with the handful of Cypriot athletes, make considerable money in endorsements and performance contracts, the lack of professional sports opportunities create a mindset conducive to Olympic glory.
With Cyprus coming so close to a medal, it’s a shame that nobody cares to do anything about it.