It was the standing joke at the Beijing Olympics: Britain is only successful at ‘sitting down’ sports, such as cycling, rowing and sailing. In the immediate rosy glow of success, there was indignation in the UK press about such jibes. Leaving aside for a moment that the joke was peddled, primarily, by Australians miffed that Britain had bested them in the medal table, it was felt to be an injustice to British swimmers, such as Rebecca Adlington, (although I suppose Australians of a querulous nature might suggest that swimming is actually a ‘laying down’ sport) and other medal winners.
But now it seems the Australians may be correct that Britons are inclined to recline. The communications watchdog Ofcom reports that people in Britain would rather go without holidays and eating out than cut back on spending on television and broadband access. They are also cleaved to their mobiles, preferring to economise on gym membership and sports, clothing, DIY, books and newspapers before their mobile phones. The only things considered more important than TV, the internet and mobile telephony among those polled were food and toiletries.
We are also as a nation, the report claims, spending more time in front of our computer screens and TVs. Britons spent an average of 225 minutes a day watching TV last year (up slightly on the previous figure) and internet usage rose sharply to 25 minutes each day.
The report also noted an increase (from 40 to 46 per cent) in people aged 25 to 34 who have a social networking profile on sites such as Facebook. But while there has been an invasion of ‘oldies’, the percentage of 15 to 24-year olds with a profile has dropped for the first time (from 55 to 50 per cent).
And there is our hope for 2012. We older Britons need to slide from our sofas in front of the TV to our seats in front of the computer and register with Facebook. By doing so we will crowd out youngsters whose only option will be to go and do the only thing their uncool parents are not i.e. sport. Unless of course we can make ‘tweeting’ an Olympic event, in which case I predict Stephen Fry for a gold medal.