My mother believed that the French called us Rosbifs because our faces turned bright pink at the first hint of sun. The insults of the French bounced off her, although she did concede that they could sometimes be condescending. Condescension is a term of art in France (they have 50 words for it) and they used it to maximum effect when Mark Cavendish won the final stage of the Tour de France and Bradley Wiggins walked off with the yellow jersey. But their innate sense of superiority has taken a bashing during the Olympics and the French press is outraged by the fact that Les Rosbifs have done so much better than them. They are accusing us of bending the rules and worse, which is odd when they have won a gold in a sport called “handball” and we weren’t even allowed to compete in any of our national sports (the sports I did at school) of cricket, rugby, squash and fives.
I’m grateful to the French. Seeing them fail has given me as much pleasure as seeing us win. But how is it that we’ve shot up from one gold at Atlanta to zillions today? Seb Coe puts it down to lottery funding, which has enabled us to afford the facilities and the coaching which top athletes need. Because of the lottery, funding for sport has increased seven-fold.
I’m pleased to learn that my favourite libertarian outfit, the Adam Smith Institute, can claim much of the credit for this. The idea of the lottery was proposed by Denis Vaughan in a paper published by the Adam Smith Institute in 1990. John Major read the paper and within two years the idea had become law. It works very efficiently, with only 1% of the available funds being taken by Camelot, the operators, as profit. 56% goes to good causes, 9% as operating costs and 10% to retailers as commission. What happens to the remaining 24%? It’s snaffled by the government. Just think how much better we could have done if the bastards hadn’t been so greedy. First, we would have had a useful fund to bribe the relevant Olympic officials to make cricket, rugby, squash etc into Olympic sports. Secondly we could have put together a crack team to beat the pesky French at handball.