Will Olympic heroes make the leap from gold to bronze?
Britain's Olympic heroes have captured the nation's hearts and inspired tributes from stamps to gold post boxes but the odds on more permanent monuments to their achievements being erected are slim, claim University of Sheffield researchers.
Despite more than 100 sporting statues taking pride of place in city centres and stadia across the UK, there are just five Olympic champions depicted: Sir Steve Redgrave, Matthew Pinsent, John Curry, Steve Ovett and Eric Liddell. This compares to over 50 football players or managers.
Dr Chris Stride, from the University of Sheffield's Institute of Work Psychology and creator of the Sporting Statues Project believes that the individual nature of most Olympic sports lies behind this under-representation.
He said: “The lack of Olympian statues in the UK is ironic given the origins of sports statues in the ancient Greek Olympics but, for a statue project to succeed it requires a site and funding. Football clubs own land to site a statue upon and, at the higher echelons, a statue is a relatively small expense.
“The use of statues and other types of nostalgic branding in the commercialised world of Premiership Football is now well established. Even smaller clubs will often have a group of committed supporters willing to fundraise over a period of years to honour their childhood heroes.
"Conversely Olympic athletes are in the public eye for relatively brief periods and are not typically part of a larger sports organisation, so they do not have the same committed supporter base to campaign for a statue or raise money for one - nor do they have a regular home stadium where a statue would be placed. Even when they are suggested as statue subjects for a town or city centre site they may often be competing with other local heroes from all walks of life for the honour.”
However, Dr Stride says there is hope for those who wish to see the current crop of Olympic champions celebrated in this way. In the last week local politicians in Edinburgh and Sheffield have suggested that statues of Sir Chris Hoy and Jessica Ennis, who graduated from the University of Sheffield with a degree in psychology, should be considered for their home towns.
Dr Stride added: “Just as football clubs believe that depicting a famous ex-player enhances the brand image of their club and its stadium, local authorities are beginning to use sport-related public art to promote their cities and improve the urban environment. With funding for public art often coming from lottery grants there is also an increased desire to reflect public opinion in design and subject choice. The reflected glory of a gold medallist and tapping into the feel good factor of the Olympics will appeal to politicians and potential commercial sponsors alike.”
The Pitch To Plinth Project
For more information on The Pitch to Plinth project, including a directory of all of the UK’s sporting statues, visit: www.sportingstatues.com.
The University of Sheffield
With nearly 25,000 students from 125 countries, the University of Sheffield is one of the UK’s leading and largest universities. A member of the Russell Group, it has a reputation for world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines. The University of Sheffield has been named University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards for its exceptional performance in research, teaching, access and business performance. In addition, the University has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes (1998, 2000, 2002, and 2007).
These prestigious awards recognise outstanding contributions by universities and colleges to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life. Sheffield also boasts five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and many of its alumni have gone on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence around the world. The University’s research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls Royce, Unilever, Boots, AstraZeneca, GSK, ICI, Slazenger, and many more household names, as well as UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.
The University has well-established partnerships with a number of universities and major corporations, both in the UK and abroad. Its partnership with Leeds and York Universities in the White Rose Consortium has a combined research power greater than that of either Oxford or Cambridge.