Honourable Mentions…

31 12 2008

As this years New Years Honours List is released to the public, so we get an opportunity to digest those deemed worthy by the Royal Family for knighthoods, or a variant of the BE award.

As I was returning from my wanderings around the Merry Hell Centre this lunch-time, I tuned into Jeremy Vine’s show on Radio 2. The topic under discussion was whether those who were given such honours actually deserved the award. It was an interesting question, especially given some of the people awarded. On the list were the likes of Lewis Hamilton (MBE), Rebecca Adlington (OBE) and Eleanor Simmonds (MBE). The BBC happily pronounces that “Sports stars lead New Years Honours”, as recognition for a successful Olympic games filters through to those who have decided upon the list.

I picked those three above as I think these most clearly indicate the counter-argument to the honours. Whilst it is undeniable that all three have had hugely successful years in their sporting disciplines, it is, I think, questionable as to whether they really deserve to be given such an award. All are under 25, indeed, Simmonds is just 14, yet all have been recognised, presumably “for services to sport” in this list. Chris Hoy has also been recognised, despite winning his first Olympic medal in 2004. Hoy has gone on to proving himself over the course of time in his sport. Sir Steven Redgrave was only knighted after winning his fifth gold medal. These people have proven themselves over the course of time in their disciplines. Hamilton, Adlington et al have yet to achieve such sporting dominance in their fields, despite success this year.

This is not the first time we have been quick to knight sports stars, the whole England cricket team were knighted after winning the Ashes in 2005, yet failed to follow up such a victory with any sort of dominance. The same happened with the England rugby team in 2003. As a nation we are keen to praise those who do well, and this is fine, but there is surely a limit to our praise? Surely people such as those mentioned above should be content to do well in their sport, and be rewarded with a knighthood if they maintain such performances?

Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of the idea of our honours system, I think it is right that people who work for the good of the nation get rewarded by the nation. Soldiers have always been honoured with medals for bravery. Doctors, nurses, and bin-men alike all help the country, yet when was the last time a bin-man got a knighthood? The trend of rewarding celebrities with knighthoods is a growing one it seems, and this seems somehow wrong.

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