Saturday, 14 January 2017

Olympic Blogging?

Remember when Tom Daley and Dan Goodfellow got bronze in the Olympic Synchro Diving in Rio 2016? If memory (and the internet) serves me correctly, GB's diving duo were in line to get Silver, behind USA's David Boudia and Steele Johnson. This was, of course, until China made their final dive.

Chen Aisen and Lin Yue (Twitter is largely blocked in China, so no links I'm afraid) took to the boards and immediately blew everyone out of the water (somewhat literally), scoring a good 39.87 points higher than the next best. There are certain sports in which you simply cannot come close to the Chinese.

Much has been reported on and speculated about the Chinese Olympic training regimes. Athletes are cherry picked for their outstanding abilities, and are put under a training regimen that takes over their whole lives. Each athlete is carved, from around 6 years old, to be a champion. The Daily Mail's article Torture or training? Inside the brutal Chinese gymnasium where the country's future Olympic stars are beaten into shape” paints an ugly, cruel picture of China's sports training systems. And this is not what I'm going to advocate.

Compare this to the UK's efforts. Our athletes are funded with lottery money. They're again selected at an early age, but the training far from swallows their entire lives. They still, however, get top notch facilities to train in and arguably the best instruction. And they still get enough medals to keep Team GB right behind China in the medals board. And that's with a population of 63 million, as opposed to China's 1.2 billion. Any promising athlete will get structure and tuition to hone their talents for four years in order to medal at an Olympic tournament- without any accusations of torture tainting their team.

I am never going to be an Olympic athlete, nor have I ever wanted to be. I am a blogger, and I have been writing unguided with only myself and a few critique groups as instructors for 10 years now. I'm not as good as I want to be, nor have I had the exposure I'd like to get. Online writing may be quite different to competitive sport, but imagine, if you will, a blogging Olympics. 2 weeks of high level bloggers from all over the the English-speaking world sat at home producing the best blog posts on the internet. Over the course of the fortnight, the blog posts would be uploaded and entered to the competition by category. They would then be graded by a committee under the watchful eyes of the internet-using, blog-reading world. Points would be awarded for research, writing ability, networking, blog design and the inclusion of multimedia. All of these points would come together from a panel of judges who had knowledge of journalism, photography, website design and social media use. As blogging is frequently a reflexive form of writing, extra points would be given for actually influencing the subject of writing as opposed to writers who are strictly observational. If, during the course of researching a conservation project, for instance, the writer encourages the local authority to put measures in place to further protect wildlife, they garner additional credit.

As the tournament continues, competitors are plucked out until only the best remain, until someone, somewhere, writes something that is chosen as the best blog post of the challenge and is crowned the winner.

Well, that sounds great and all, if you're mad keen on blogging like I am. The reason I'm writing this is that, in this fantasy world of high-level blogging that I'm imagining, there would need to be training. The 2-week period of the Blogging Olympics would be a culmination of the efforts of the competing writers, the final chapter in a story that took 4 years to complete. 4 years of steady training, preparing the blogger to be the best they possibly could be, during which time the blog they ran would be updated with their chosen topic, plus details of their training regimen. You could read along to support your blogger as they not only wrote about their passions, but detailed their training, as they learned how to take professional-looking pictures, shoot quality video, practice interview techniques and generally write with journalistic professionalism tinted with their own unique voice.

Would the collective page views be anything like the viewing figures the world saw at the Olympics in Rio? Obviously not. But, what a Blogging Olympics would do that a sports tournament cannot necessarily, is educate people and provide information, and influence some corner of the world. It could, if done properly, provide solutions to problems (cooking blogs provide solutions to hunger, don't they? Sometimes?) perhaps by telling people what's happening in the blogger's location, and could do it with individuality, free from the restraints of a publication's style guide. Blogging of any kind can already achieve this. That's why I think it'd be fascinating to hone bloggers' talents to make them the best that they could be. Whether we could talk the National Lottery into funding this is another issue...

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