The Olympics as a predictor of geopolitical power: Part III The rise of Great Britain

Throughout our Brexit commentary we have maintained that the referendum was in effect a civil war of regionalisation, brought about by the innate expansive energy within the country that needed expression and a new direction. It is rare to see a second significant signal to follow so soon behind, which only confirms our thesis that Britain is on the verge of a powerful phase of expansion on the world stage. Most people put down the 3rd place in London as a home advantage, but Britain’s 2nd place in Rio is a powerful signal that Great Britain really is on the move again. The origins of this stunning success post a 3rd place in the London Olympics date back to the 'one gold medal' disaster in 1996 and John Major’s government decision to start a national lottery with the goal to fund British athletes. It is not just the consistent increase in funding to the tune of £260m per year (which is a small amount to pay for such an uplift in national pride) preceding the Rio games, but the determined and focused approach to making the Olympics, rather than the World Championships, the key focus of the program. Additionally, Britain has been following a ‘copy and assimilation’ strategy consistent with the phase of late regionalisation of finding the best coaches from around the world to raise its teams to world-class status.

What is so impressive is not just the total haul of gold, silver and bronze medals, but the broad range of sports from which they came. This suggests that Britain has applied a winning formula across a wide range of sports. GB won gold in 15 sports. Of 31 sports, GB finished on the podium in 19 - a strike rate of just over 61%. That percentage is even better if you remove the six sports - basketball, football, handball, volleyball, water polo and wrestling – that Britain was not represented in. Then it jumps to a staggering 76%, in comparison to the United States whose narrow victory was described earlier. Imagine what might happen if in preparation for 2020, team GB were to add more focus on swimming and athletics and make inroads into the lead of the USA? The GB team’s success is further highlighted by the relative population size of the top three nations, the USA with 319m people, Britain with 65m and China with 1.3bn people. Naturally, the size of the population effects the pool from which elite athletes are selected and the larger the pool the greater the talent base and chance of success.

This winning formula of Britain’s Olympic team has been latched onto by the government as its core process can be used to inspire with the right support the growth of the British economy. Furthermore, it is fascinating that this surge in national energy is not restricted to the Olympic sports. The Rugby Union has finally taken on a world-class Australian coach in the form of Eddie Jones, following the disastrous home World Cup. Jones has very quickly melded the great reserve of talent into a team that will almost inevitably confront and beat New Zealand to become dominant. Then, there is the America’s Cup, led by probably the greatest British sailor ever, Ben Ainslie. For the first time in many decades we have a team that has a very real chance of winning back the cup in 2017.

With such a clear trend in the rise of national energy it is very clear that Britain is the one Western nation on the rise and its influence will within half a decade be way greater than anyone today anticipates; from sport to a revitalised economy, and lastly from the desire to raise our Armed Forces from the ignominy of Iraq and Afghanistan to a force that can protect our national interests. Geopolitically, as Britain has stymied China’s second place in the Olympics and frustrated the bureaucrats of Brussels, I suspect that Britain’s influence will inevitably be felt much more globally in the years to come.