Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Team GB? What of Northern Ireland?

As David Cameron moves to ‘normalise’ the politics of Northern Ireland by absorbing the UUP, it is curious that no-one has sought to normalise the nomenclature of British athletes in Beijing, or to assert that the Olympic team represents the nation state of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and that ‘Team GB’ is affront to the loyal British people of Northern Ireland, of which there are very many indeed.

According to Reuters, the Prime Minister is hailing the most excellent performance of the UK in the Olympics. He is, of course, doing no such thing. The UK does not feature as a nation in any Olympics literature or performance table, being referred to only as Great Britain or ‘Team GB’. This is curious, given that the official name of the team under the IOC is ‘Great Britain and Northern Ireland’. In addition, the national Olympic committee is the ‘British Olympic Association’, thereby incorporating Northern Ireland, and the national anthem played after each resounding success is that of the United Kingdom – God Save the Queen (with no dispensation for atheists or republicans).

There is no political entity called Great Britain. Within the UK may be found the entities of Scotland, England (,/&) Wales, and Northern Ireland, but ‘Great Britain’ is only part of the UK, and just one of the isles from which members of ‘Team GB’ hail.

In Barcelona and Atlanta, British competitors were always announced as 'representing Great Britain and Northern Ireland'. There seems to have been a change, doubtless to pacify the sensitivities of the Irish, and all mentions of Northern Ireland have disappeared. Interestingly, the official announcement in French for the ‘Team GB’ cycling sprint gold medal was ‘Royaume-Uni’, but possibly only because the French refuse to refer to the island across La Manche as ‘Great’.

According to the International Olympic Committee's existing charter, ‘the Olympic Council of Ireland represents the whole island of Ireland.’ Apparently, it was former Irish IOC member and IOC president Lord Killanin who ensured that the OCI was responsible for all 32 counties on the island of Ireland. The OCI charter giving it full responsibility for all of Ireland ‘was agreed by former IOC president Avery Brundage and then re-enforced by Killanin when he became president’.

Attempts by the BOA to change their charter with the IOC to include the words Northern Ireland have not succeeded. So the OCI sends a team representing Ireland and the BOA sends one representing GB.

Doubtless to the delight of Sinn Féin, Olympic sports are organised on an all Ireland basis. While Northern Ireland athletes can compete for either team, they generally go with the Irish teams as inclusion is less competitive. Thus there are distinct and separate Ireland and GB teams: Ireland uses the tricolour and national anthem of the Republic, and GB flies the Union flag and sings the national anthem of the UK.

Of course, most of ‘Britain’s’ sporting success in Beijing is really that of the English, but one dare not mention that. While the Scottish media hail the occasional medal for the occasional Scot* as a great and victorious triumph for Scotland, when the English win, it is never for 'Harry, England and St George', but for for Britain and the British.

One wonders if by 2012 ‘Team GB’ will exist at all, or will that be the year of the first Olympiad with teams from Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England? Might it just possibly be the year we bid farewell to Great Britain?

*Not at all to detract from truly Olympian accomplishment of Chris Hoy.

34 Comments:

Blogger Paul said...

"The rule is: if we've done any thing good it's 'Another victory for Great Britain.' If we lose then it's 'Britain loses again.'" -- Michael Flanders.

19 August 2008 at 10:32  
Blogger Homophobic Horse said...

"One wonders if by 2012 ‘Team GB’ will exist at all, or will that be the year of the first Olympiad with teams from Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England? Might it just possibly be the year we bid farewell to Great Britain?"

It is not the EU's style to make it's influence obvious to the masses.

19 August 2008 at 11:23  
Blogger Toque said...

"Britain" might do better if the UK did break up. At least England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland could petition for the inclusion of sports like Rugby Union, Rugby League, Snooker and Darts. And England could petition for the inclusion of cricket.

And we could enter our football teams for ritual humiliation.

Have you noticed how Gordon Brown steadfastly refuses to mention Northern Ireland in any of his speeches on Britishness?

One would have thought that this response on the No.10 website would have been the ideal opportunity to bang on about our "shared values", our tolerance and respect of liberty that we have in common. Must have slipped his mind!

19 August 2008 at 11:33  
Blogger Bob said...

doubtless to pacify the sensitivities of the Irish

I was unaware Ireland had any sensitivities to pacify on the matter.

19 August 2008 at 12:07  
Anonymous Home Rule for England said...

I look forward to the day when we can forget all this British nonsense! I want England to compete as England not as part of some dysfunctional 'family of nations' who are always at each others throats!I'm sure many Scots Welsh and N.Irish would welcome the same opportunity!

19 August 2008 at 13:36  
Anonymous Phil Taylor said...

As a proud Englishman I am big enough to acknowledge Scotland's contribution to British sport.

It would be hard not to after Scottish cyclist Chris Hoy's 3rd gold. Doh!

19 August 2008 at 13:47  
Anonymous oiznop said...

Yes, Phil, that's big indeed. Hoy's achievement is impressive, but how many proud Scots are big enough to acknowledge England's contribution to British sport? Isn't that the point?

19 August 2008 at 14:17  
Blogger Gregor said...

I am a proud Scot and wholeheartedly acknowledge England's contribution to British Sport...The difference is that Scotland is a much smaller nation than England, so when we do have success i.e Chris Hoy then we tend to make a big deal out of it!

I fully support the United Kingdom and indeed think England Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland should have separate fully independent parliaments, with Westminster only retaining common issues such as defence etc. There would then be no more moaning about Scots voting on english only matters and we could all get on and co-operate for the good of the United Kingdom.

19 August 2008 at 15:08  
Blogger mckenzie said...

Yeah its a helluva thing init mate!
Is my tea ready I wonder?

19 August 2008 at 15:56  
Anonymous Bugs Bunny said...

Ireland should play as a unitary entity. Even before Irish secession from the United Kingdom, Ireland always played as a distinct body from Britain. Most Unionists are only too happy to support the Irish rugby, cricket, or swimming teams. Go out to Shankhill during the six nations and count the St Patrick's saltires flying proudly from the lamposts. Currently soccer is divided between the Irish Football Association in Northern Ireland and the Football Association of Ireland in the Republic of Ireland. The two ought to be merged. However 'neutral' and all-encompassing anthems could be chosen (sort of like Ireland's Call, which is used for rugby) and the St Patrick's saltire should be used to represent the island.

19 August 2008 at 16:02  
Anonymous Bugs Bunny said...

In light of the fact that Northern Ireland has a population of 1.7 million people, almost half of which is Unionist, I think it is a bit hard to maintain that there are 'millions' of loyal Britains living there.

19 August 2008 at 16:07  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Bunny,

His Grace has been waiting for that, and has amended to 'very many indeed'.

19 August 2008 at 16:21  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could your Grace be so kind as to recommend a good introductory textbook on the political philosophy of sovereignty and the British Constitution?

19 August 2008 at 16:46  
Blogger Harry's Blog said...

In fact the BOA does represent the whole of the UK. From their site:-

"Team GB is the Great Britain and Northern Ireland Olympic Team. "

19 August 2008 at 17:35  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Harry,

That the BOA does so is precisely the point His Grace makes, which renders 'Team GB' a manifest misnomer.

19 August 2008 at 17:40  
Blogger Wyrdtimes said...

"Might it just possibly be the year we bid farewell to Great Britain?"

I certainly hope so. Home rule for England!

19 August 2008 at 18:15  
Anonymous Jenny said...

Wyrdtimes said...

"Might it just possibly be the year we bid farewell to Great Britain?"

I certainly hope so. Home rule for England!



Yes, and wait for the Scots and the Welsh to demand more money from 'central government' for sports so they can 'catch up'?

19 August 2008 at 20:10  
Anonymous William said...

Paul (1st comment) unfortunately fluffs the Flanders & Swann line, thereby obscuring the point. In the second sentence it should be "England loses again."

Even if the team were renamed "The United Kingdom", that still leaves the problem of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands (I believe there is at least one Manx competitor in "Team GB"), which are not part of the UK. It would need to be "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland with the Crown Dependencies". A bit of a mouthful!

19 August 2008 at 20:21  
Anonymous hear o israel said...

just to let you kmow your grace , you are currently starring in the new series of the tudors !! indeed you have just been made archbishop , smuggled your wife in a crate , and are currently drafting , the documents that will make henry the 8ths marriage illegal (and so mary illigitimate heir)

and anne bolyn has just gave birth to a girl and henry is dissapointed , but the pope is putting together his jesuit organisation , and one has attempted to pop ms bolyn off before corination .

i cant help but wonder how you fit it all and run a well regarded blogg to boot , what a busy man you are !!

20 August 2008 at 00:47  
Blogger Muzzer said...

I am a Scot and always found it curious that NI are not in Team GB, from what I understand NI participate in the Ireland team, is that correct?

Or does basically NI have no representation at the Olympics?

I love Team GB and as a proud Scot and true Brit I say keep the Union, Share the Medals and enjoy the credit.

20 August 2008 at 11:21  
Anonymous Ulster Tory said...

Sportspersons from Northern Ireland can choose to be part of Team GB, OR part of Team Ireland. To call the team, Team GB and NI would therefore be slightly deceptive. Although it would give Sinn Fein and the SDLP something else to complain about...

20 August 2008 at 12:14  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Olympic sports are organised on an all Ireland basis. While Northern Ireland athletes can compete for either team, they generally go with the Irish team..."

Maybe they prefer it. After all as has been pointed out 'team GB' does not include NI so why bother competing for it when it excludes them?

If the Scots had a chance to compete for their own team (as they do at the Commonwealth Games) I don't doubt most would do so as well.

Personally I would have more interest in the Olympics if that was the case. People flying a flag that represents English dominance over other countries does not rock my boat.

21 August 2008 at 01:33  
Blogger freescotlandnow said...

The Saltire was banned by the Chinese along with the flag of Tibet!

Obviously the Telegraph and 'the Scotsman' prefer this situation but the reality is that if Scotland had our own Olympic team most Scots would join that.

The idea of a united British football team has went down like a lead balloon! That's what happens when the actual countries have a voice and aren't treated as invisible.

21 August 2008 at 01:38  
Anonymous Paul R said...

GB is an internationally recognised abbreviation for 'GB and Northern Ireland'. It was agreed at an International Postal Union meeting in the 1920s. Ukraine got 'UK', we got 'GB'. The two letter code for addresses anywhere in the UK, including N.I., is 'GB'. It is the equivalent of DE for German addresses, CH for Swiss ones, etc.

21 August 2008 at 15:30  
Blogger freescotlandnow said...

They used to call Scotland NB but it didn't catch on. If you are happy for NI to be ignored that's fine, no doubt that's why most of them prefer to turn out for Ireland. I'm sure they are entirely happy for the post office to decide their national status!

Personally I think we Scots should have our own team SCO and leave out Britain altogether but that's just my opinion.

21 August 2008 at 16:09  
Anonymous Paul R said...

freescotland - it is not a case of Northern Ireland being ignored. As GB is an abbreviation for 'Great Britain and Northern Ireland' it is clearly included.

21 August 2008 at 18:45  
Blogger Tommy said...

The French are French, the Danish are Danish, the fact that we are discussing here what our own country and abbreviation is, shows what a constitutional mess politicians have made and how confusing it is for the English, Welsh, Scots and Northern Irish, one thing is for certain though, this Kingdom is most definitely NOT united!

24 August 2008 at 23:03  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didn't know the UK = Ukraine bit, top trivia, ta. My question is that if any part of Great Britain/Britain were to become independent (most likely Scotland) what would the UKOGBANI, GB and Britain be renamed as, what would happen to the Union Jack, what about BA, BBC etc, and all their websites blah blah. And loads more worms in the can I'm sure.

25 August 2008 at 00:46  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BOA = British Olympic Association but if it is GB+NI, then "British" does not cover the NI people since they are not from Britain.

It is sad that the British are so
small minded that they have to
have to hold on to whatever relic of past glory they can.

It is funny how I never once heard of people from Northern Ireland being British Terrorists but if they
can run or jump or row a boat, they can become British athletes.

25 August 2008 at 12:08  
Blogger bigblue said...

Actually, "Team GB" covers not only Great Britain, but the United Kingdom (and even the Isle of Man).

GB has been a recognised abbreviation for the United Kingdom for many years, and is the 2-digit ISO country code for the United Kingdom. UK on the other hand stands for Ukraine.

Next up someone will be telling the Swiss they should be SW (Swaziland) and not CH?

25 August 2008 at 16:16  
Blogger Cato, author of www.toryheaven.com said...

Without having read your post until now Your Grace, I am delighted to see that I also came to precisely the same view as yourself (as I state on my blog - http://toryheaven.blogspot.com/2008/08/team-uk.html).

Team UK is the only decent modern style title our athletes should compete under, although I would prefer the modern traditional sounding 'United Kingdom Team', even if it might be less snappy.

26 August 2008 at 10:46  
Blogger freescotlandnow said...

In 2012 at the next games the point may well be moot anyway if Scotland and Wales decide to leave the UK.

Many NI athletes currently run for Ireland and I don't think they will choose to run for England so your team will be Team England and ours will be Team Scotland and Britain and it's flag will be in the dustbin where it belongs.

27 August 2008 at 22:35  
Blogger Chalcedon said...

According to our culture Mo was a paedophile. According to theirs, he wasn't. He was of their culture so he thought it was OK to have sex with a 9 year old. Unfortunately because of their religion, the life of the prophet etc they think it's OK too. They are of course WRONG.

31 August 2008 at 19:00  
Blogger freescotlandnow said...

I fail to see what this comment has to do with the discussion at hand!

2 September 2008 at 13:50  

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