“Team GB” and fake national identity

TV presenter Zoe Salmon, seen here in Antrim with the Olympic flame, has spoken out against the snub to Northern Ireland in the naming of "Team GB"

TV presenter Zoe Salmon, seen here in Antrim with the Olympic flame, has spoken out against the snub to Northern Ireland in the naming of "Team GB"

For the past fortnight the media has celebrated the medal-winning achievements of British athletes at the London Olympics.  Yet the Games have been scarred by political correctness, not only through the banning of athletes for political reasons, but in the very identity of “Team GB” itself.

The confusion was most obvious in football, where fans have been used to supporting different teams from each of the countries that make up the United Kingdom, but for the games were puzzled to see a new entity: Team GB, representing England, Wales and Scotland combined – and indeed captained by a Welshman, Ryan Giggs.

This Team GB ethos continued right across the Olympics in every sport, but it amounts to an extraordinary insult to a part of the UK that has produced many sporting icons, from George Best to Mary Peters.

For of course “Great Britain” does not include Northern Ireland.

Ulster athletes were given the choice of either competing for “Team GB” or for “Ireland”: in other words for the Republic of Ireland, a foreign country.  For example Belfast boxer Paddy Barnes, who represents Northern Ireland at the Commonwealth Games, boxed as part of the Irish team at the Olympics (as he had done at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing).

Television presenter Zoe Salmon, who is herself from the Ulster resort of Bangor, County Down, was among several people to condemn the Olympic snub to Northern Ireland.  As Miss Salmon points out, it is a “simple case of geography”.

There are two logical choices for international sporting bodies: either have separate teams representing each country in the UK, or have a Team UK.  “Great Britain” is neither a country nor a nation state, it is merely a geographical description.  There has been no such state as “Great Britain” since 1801, when the former Great Britain was formally united with Ireland.  Moreover there has never been any such thing as a united Irish state, independent of the English crown (except in ancient legends).

Perhaps the most logical and consistent policy would be to have separate teams from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as a team from the Republic of Ireland.

In the meantime, the invention of a “Team GB” serves two craven political purposes.  A further creeping surrender to the agenda of the IRA for the handing over of Northern Irish sovereignty; and the creation of a convenient fake “Great British” identity which can more easily encompass anyone who happens to live within the geographical unit of Great Britain, regardless of racial or cultural heritage.

The invention of “Team GB” has nothing to do with sport.

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