A Beijing Boost for Britishness

23 August 2008

Tom Griffin (London, OK): 'One World, One Dream' is the official slogan of the Beijing Olympics, reflecting "the common wishes of people all over the world, inspired by the Olympic ideals, to strive for a bright future of Mankind. In spite of the differences in colors, languages and races, we share the charm and joy of the Olympic Games, and together we seek for the ideal of Mankind for peace."

It has long been argued, (classically by George Orwell), that such lofty ideals only serve to conceal the close relationship between nationalism and the sporting spirit.

That relationship has clearly been significant in Britain in recent years, but since at least Euro 96, the sporting nationalism most in evidence has been that of the component nations of the UK, increasingly conscious of their separate identities.

The Telegraph's Iain Martin argues that narrative could now be reversed in the wake of Britain's record Olympic medal haul:

The gold rush has left the First Minister of Scotland with an unanticipated difficulty: this wave of British success was not in the script. So he jarringly claims Hoy's victory as a "Braveheart" moment and complains that the Chinese banned the Scottish Saltire, allowing teams to fly only the national flag.

His parochial form of patriotism runs counter to the prevailing mood of straightforward pride in Great Britain. And Salmond now has to factor 2012 into his calculations about a vote on independence: after Beijing, the London games will be keenly anticipated in all parts of the United Kingdom.

The SNP leader will be asked repeatedly whether he seriously wants to break up Team GB - in 2010 or 2011 - while it is deep in training to try to better its extraordinary performance in Beijing.

A cynical riposte to Martin might note that the prevailing mood wasn't much in evidence at Hampden Park on Wednesday night, where some of the Scottish fans were booing Northern Ireland's anthem - God Save the Queen.

The more serious response, as Martin acknowledges, is that sporting success is not in itself a solution to underlying political problems. 

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