What’s behind Spain’s run of sporting success?

July 26, 2010


Spanish sports fans have never had it so good.

The Iberian nation is celebrating its latest triumphs after a month of success that local media have called a golden age.

On Sunday, Alberto Contador sealed his third Tour de France title, Fernando Alonso won the German Formula One Grand Prix, and Jorge Lorenzo roared to MotoGP victory in the U.S.

Pictures of Contador clad in the Tour winner’s yellow jersey and Alonso in the red driving suit of Ferrari dominated the newspaper’s front pages, chiming perfectly with the colours of the Spanish flag.

All that just two weeks after Spain secured its first World Cup soccer crown and three weeks after Rafa Nadal won Wimbledon for the second time.

It was enough to leave the daily Marca proclaiming Spain “the world’s great sporting superpower”.

And El Mundo wrote: “The victories of Alonso and Contador end the best month in the history of Spanish sport. Both in group sports … as well as in individual disciplines, Spanish sport is sweeping all before it.”

But what explains the bonanza? Are the results coincidence or the ultimate reward for years of investment and patience?

Few seem able to locate the silver bullet.

La Razon argued that the reasons for the success were “training, mental attitude and talent”, while an El Pais editorial said there was no reason to think the “golden age” would be brief or exceptional.

Marca wrote: “The period capped by Contador (on Sunday) is unprecedented. No country has ever achieved it before — neither the U.S. nor the defunct Soviet Union, who turned courts and pitches into the battle ground for the Cold War and victory into an affair of state.”

Marca said the achievements were down to hard work training young athletes and the efforts of figures such as Juan Antonio Samaranch, the Spanish former International Olympic Committee president.

Some in the media compared the glory on the sporting fields to the gloom in Spain’s economy and the apparent inability of politicians to tackle soaring unemployment and the woes of the financial sector.

One of the reasons cited for the nation’s victory at the World Cup in South Africa was the ability of players from different regions with nationalist ambitions to work together towards a collective goal for Spain.

Those running the country would do well to follow that lead, El Mundo wrote.

“It is not that common for sport to lead a society suffering from various crises: economic, political and in the very model of the state,” the paper wrote. But that is the case here. And the values which our athletes are demonstrating are the best recipe to overcome both the recession as well as the lack of a wider collective project of a nation.”

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