Tuesday 20 March 2018

Suddenly, a voice of clear reason in our theatre of Olympic dreams

And it comes from Martin Cullen. Brendan O'Connor was impressed when he interviewed the Sports Minister in a Government which is finally waking up

IT'S a bit like one of those unlikely scenes from ER. They've all given someone up for dead. "He's been gone for four hours, Kovac. Let it go." And, suddenly, a pulse. It's almost exhilarating. Having figured that this Government had drowned, there was a sign of life a few weeks ago when Batt O'Keeffe came out bravely on the issue of college fees. Since then there have been a few more splutters of water, like Mary Hanafin taking a firm line on single parents. But last week it appeared they were fully back to life again, and even thinking of going back in for a swim. Dick Roche, and even Cowen, were telling it like it is about Lisbon. And then, most hearteningly, Martin Cullen decided to tell us a few home truths about our great sporting nation.

The fact that Cullen's observations about what he calls the "ruthlessness" that we need in order to do well in the Olympics were greeted with a few raised eyebrows demonstrated again that vaguely lefty thinking is still the norm in this essentially right-wing, free market democracy. The fact that Cullen was also prepared to say the vaguely politically incorrect truth that is staring all of us in the face -- that white men can't jump, or run at least -- was also heartening. So unused are we to politicians being real and telling it like it is that this dose of honesty and reality was mildly thrilling.

Cullen's big idea seems to be essentially to bring to bear strategy guru Michael Porter's notions of competitive advantage of nations. In the business world, Porter's strategic blueprint is a standard framework for excellence and productivity. At its most basic level, it suggests that countries pick specific industries in which they have a capacity to create a sustainable competitive advantage. So you look at your natural endowments as a nation, and various other conditions, and you see what you can be better at -- and stay better at-- than other guys.

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