The Class of London 2012: Some Sociological Reflections on the Social Backgrounds of Team GB Athletes

Andy Smith, David Haycock, Nicola Hulme

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


This rapid response article briefly examines one feature of the relationship between social class and elite sport: the social backgrounds of the Olympians who comprised Team GB (Great Britain) at the 2012 London Olympics Games, and especially their educational backgrounds, as a means of shedding sociological light on the relationship between elite sport and social class. It is claimed that, to a large degree, the class-related patterns evident in the social profiles of medal-winners are expressive of broader class inequalities in Britain. The roots of the inequalities in athletes' backgrounds are to be found within the structure of the wider society, rather than in elite sport, which is perhaps usefully conceptualized as 'epiphenomenal, a secondary set of social practices dependent on and reflecting more fundamental structures, values and processes' (Coalter 2013: 18) beyond the levers of sports policy. It is concluded that class, together with other sources of social division, still matters and looking to the process of schooling and education, whilst largely ignoring the significance of wider inequalities, is likely to have a particularly limited impact on the stubborn persistence of inequalities in participation at all levels of sport, but particularly in elite sport.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSociological Research Online
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2013


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