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
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?