Just Sociology

The Impact of Structures and Class Divide in Olympic Success

The Olympics is an event that brings together athletes from all over the world to compete for recognition and honor. However, behind every successful athlete is a complex structure of social, economic, and political systems that have shaped their talents and performances.

The use of structuration theory can explain these structures, highlighting the impact they have on the individual and how their actions can affect them. Additionally, the Olympics serves as a platform to highlight the class divide in the UK, with privately educated athletes dominating the medal table.

This article delves into the importance of structures in Olympic success and the class inequality present in UK sports.

Definition of Structuration Theory

Structuration theory argues that structures are not static, but are created and maintained by the actions of individuals. The concept of empowerment is central to this theory, as it asserts that individuals have the power to alter existing structures.

On the other hand, structures also mold individual action, shaping their talents and expectations. Understanding this interdependency helps to explain the success of certain athletes and their contribution to national and international recognition.

Examples of Structures behind Olympic Success

The success of Olympic athletes is not solely based on their talent, but also on the structures that support them. Lottery funding ensures athletes have the financial support they need to train full-time.

A team of experts including coaches, nutritionists, and physiotherapists provide the necessary training and support for the athletes. Planning and timetabling ensure that athletes have a clear path to follow on their journey to winning medals.

Discipline is also critical to ensure that athletes maintain the right balance between work and social life, leading to optimal results.

Importance of Social Structures for the Olympics

International events such as the Olympics have become global phenomena, with nation-states investing billions of dollars in developing infrastructure and communication networks. These structures have created the framework needed to make the Olympics what it is today.

Although, it is worth noting that the success or failure of the Olympics is not just about infrastructure or communication, but how these structures are appropriated and used by individuals.

Dominance of Discourse of Individualism

Despite acknowledging the importance of structures, Olympic success is commonly perceived as an individual achievement. Recognition is primarily given to individual athletes and honors given to their achievements.

However, this discourse ignores the social structures that have worked in their favor. Success is result of both individual talent and the structures that support them.

Privately Educated Athletes in Olympic Squad

Statistics show that privately educated athletes dominate the GB Olympic squad. Elite sports facilities and coaching are often only available at private schools, where the majority of students are from wealthy backgrounds.

This explicit inequality in sports access reflects broader class inequalities.

Equality of Medal Prospects for Comprehensive and Private School Athletes

Although privately educated athletes have dominated the medal table, many of those who do make it into the squad have been trained outside of the private school system. Full access to talent pools regardless of socio-economic backgrounds, would add to the diversity of Team GB, making prospect of a medal more equal across all athletes.

Class Inequality Across Top Professions

Inequality is not restricted to sports but is also prevalent across many professional sectors, including top judges, leading print journalists, and solicitors. The overwhelming majority of these professions are privileged backgrounds.

The issue of access and diversity is therefore not limited to sports but is a much wider societal issue.

Failure of Mainstream Media to Acknowledge Class Inequality

Despite the glaring class divide in the Olympics and across many sectors of society, mainstream media tends to focus solely on individual success stories. The failure to highlight the significance of structure and structuration theory in analyzing the success of British Olympians means that real progress in equality remains elusive.


In conclusion, the social, economic, and political structures behind Olympic success are complex and influential. Structuration theory highlights the dependence and independence of structures and individual action.

At the same time, institutional and social structures make clear the class divide in access and opportunity in sports and other relevant fields. Addressing these underlying issues requires a deeper understanding of the interplay between individual talent and socio-economic background, increasing access to diverse talent pools, and utilizing policy to create equal opportunities for all.

In conclusion, this article highlighted the importance of structures in Olympic success, pointing out the dominance of individualism discourse, while also uncovering the class divide in UK sports. Structuration theory provided a framework to analyze the impact of structures on individuals, underlining the need for equal opportunities and access to talent pools.

Understanding the significance of the social, political and economic structures behind Olympic success and acknowledging the wider societal issues can help us to create a more balanced and diverse approach to success.



What is structuration theory? Structuration theory argues that social structures are created and maintained by the actions of individuals.

2. Why is structuration theory important in analyzing Olympic success?

Structuration theory highlights the interdependency between structures and individual actions, underscoring the importance of access to resources, planning, and discipline for success. 3.

What is the significance of class inequality in UK sports? Class inequality in UK sports highlights the lack of access and opportunity for athletes from lower socio-economic backgrounds, leading to a lack of diverse talent in elite sports.

4. How can equal opportunities be created in UK sports?

Equal opportunities can be created by increasing access to talent pools from all socio-economic backgrounds, and investing in resources to support these athletes. 5.

Why is the discourse of individualism problematic in analyzing Olympic success? The discourse of individualism ignores the structures behind Olympic success, leading to the glorification of individual achievement and ignoring the role structures play in shaping individual talent.

Popular Posts