Last time we looked at the Olympic motto there was some stuff in there about Fastest and Strongest, but apparently we've given those attributes too much attention in the past. Yesterday in Trafalgar Square saw the launch of "Sporting Giants", a search fronted by five times gold medallist Sir Steve Redgrave (6' 5¼" / 1.96m) for, basically, tall young people who will be invited to join programs that will hopefully turn them into the winners we so desperately crave for London 2012.
Now we're right behind pretty much any initiative that will prevent the Band of Her Majesty's Coldstream Guards wearing out their copies of "The Star Spangled Banner", "March of the Volunteers" and "Advance, Australia Fair" in five years' time, but rummaging around for very tall people in the hope that their sheer height might somehow propel them to sporting stardom seems a bit desperate to us. Goodness only knows what the current members of Britain's rowing, handball and volleyball squads make of the suggestion that previously untried members of the public might have a better chance of medal success than those who have slogged their way to the top of their sports over many years. From the sounds of Simon Hart in the Sunday Telegraph such sentiments wouldn't be without foundation:
When a trial of the recruitment campaign was launched to seek prospective handball players, only six men and one woman were chosen from 180 candidates. Those seven face a further three months of "talent confirmation" before they make the squad. "We want to see if they are a thriver, a survivor or a decliner," said Miss [Chelsea] Warr [UK Sport's performance consultant]. "The initial characteristics of an individual are a very small part of knowing whether they have genuine talent."
Quite. So why are we bothering with this then?
Scepticism aside, we were also left wondering whether this sort of apparent discrimination wasn't prohibited in these modern days? Initial conversations with a legal consultant suggest not, though it's good to know that when there's a danger that a high-profile initiative might be seen as politically incorrect or less than serious you can rely on sport minister Richard Caborn to avoid any unfortunate turns of phrase.
Sporting Giants will give taller athletes the chance to reach the peak of their potential by... introducing them to the high-performance environment. The home crowd will want to see the best of British talent when London hosts the Olympic Games in 2012. This campaign will help us to meet those high expectations.
We await his speech at the launch of the search for Britain's dormant coxes, jockeys and flyweight powerlifters with morbid curiosity.
Picture of a lad from Regent's Park who might make the volleyball side via jspad's Flickr stream.