What was your favourite moment from the London 2012 Olympics? Usain Saint Leo “Lightning” Bolt winning the 100 metres? Mo Farah winning double gold in the 5000 and 10,000 metres as the audience in the Olympic park erupted? For me it was teenage poster boy Tom Daley winning his bronze medal in the 10 metre diving competition and later paying a really moving tribute to his late father who died of brain cancer last year. As Clare Balding said ‘if anyone deserves a medal at these Olympics, its Tom’.
But whatever your favourite moment was, spare a thought for all those countries who didn’t win a medal at London 2012. Of the 204 countries who took part in the games, 118 countries or over half will be going home empty handed. There will be no post London 2012 party or national homecoming celebration for them.
Of these the largest nation by population size is Bangladesh. With over 152 million people Bangladesh is the eighth most populous country in the world but it has never even had an athlete qualify for the Olympics, let alone got a medal. The five person team who represented the country at London 2012 all did so courtesy of Olympics wildcards.
Why has a country the size of Bangladesh never qualified or won a medal at the Olympics? Some commentators have blamed the country’s obsession with cricket as a reason because it is not included in the Olympics. The good news for Bangladesh is that cricket could feature at the 2020 games. However, with the team currently ranked nine in the world it still seems like a long shot for a medal.
The real reason of course is that Bangladesh is chronically poor with nearly half of the country’s children not having enough food to eat. So while Bangladesh didn’t feature in the medals table, it was one of the countries singled out in the Hunger Summit which took place at 10 Downing Street on the same day as the Olympics closing ceremony. It brought together a range of Olympians including Mo Farah and the legendary sports stars Pele and Haile Gebrselassie who in an open letter to the Prime Minister David Cameron urged him to tackle child malnutrition when Britain heads up the presidency of the G8 next year.
One of the causes of child poverty in Bangladesh is the fact that a large proportion of the country is low-lying and is therefore at high risk to flooding, extreme weather events which are occurring with increasing frequency due to climate change. At the end of June unprecedented rains resulted in over one hundred people being killed and over a quarter of a million losing their homes. You can see the effect of this flooding and some of the ways we are helping people there rebuild their lives and homes in this new Practical Action video.
“While people around the planet have been enjoying and competing in these Games, there`s another world where children don`t have enough to eat and never get the start in life they deserve,” the Prime Minister said at the summit. “We`ve a responsibility to tackle this.”
When it comes to securing an Olympic legacy, tackling malnutrition is easily worthy of a silver medal. But to be awarded a gold the Prime Minister also needs to tackle the causes of many of the extreme weather events which have devastated countries like Bangladesh and left so many children hungry and without a home. He has a golden opportunity to begin to do this at the United Nations climate talks in Doha this December.