Post Olympics: Harnessing the Migration of Skills in Sport

In the first week of 'no Olympics', athletes, coaches and the public in countries worldwide are reflecting on achievements, analysing weaknesses and debating the future of sport in their country. Take Australia and the UK for instance, two Commonwealth countries whose achievements were a noticeable contrast to 12 years ago. Australia has achieved some successes at the London 2012 but given their history as Gold-medal winning Olympians in previous years, their expectations are high and their gold is down. Is Australia experiencing a 'brain drain' in sport?

The loss of sporting coaches from Australia could explain the shift. The UK Cycling and Rowing teams, both hugely successful at London 2012, have benefited from the expertise of Australian coaches Paul Thompson (rowing) and Shane Sutton (cycling). Whilst Australia believes it has lost many of its talented coaches to other countries, predominantly the UK, it has also made some brain gains - sailing and diving coaches Victor Kovalenko and Hui Tong, were Australia's gain and the Ukraine and China's loss.  

Is the brain drain is part of modern day sport? Football has long seen a high migration of players between countries. And, as national boundaries shift, teams particularly in UK, US and Australia are diverse and made up of athletes from the diaspora of many of other nations; athletes who inspire and evoke pride from their team country and are a source of inspiration to their homelands.

 But is this really a brain drain or brain circulation? Australia may have negative view of the current situation but they have also gained from the migration of sporting skills to their country, as demonstrated through Kovalenko and Tong. As people continue to migrate and seek career opportunities and challenges overseas, skills and expertise in sport - as in many other fields - will continue to shift from one country to another. Is the movement of sporting talent really draining one country at another's gain? The perpetual circulation of talent may simply be characteristic of global migration. But how do governments and the sporting industry in countries across the world harness this to a home advantage?

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