What does Team GB, not UK, say to you?

Since Brian’s mentioned Paddy Barnes’ magnificent efforts in Bejing (Kenny Egan looking good at the moment too), it’s as well to mention in passing that Christine Ohuruogu has bagged an impressive Gold in the women’s 400m, and Germaine Mason has a Silver for the High Jump. (See 10 ways Britain changed over the weekend). But Suilven points us to an interesting piece from Kevin Myers on the subject of the GB designation (something Michael Shilladay should be speaking about on the IPM programme on Radio 4 this Saturday). Kevin Myers has this to say on the subject of Team GB:

A straw in the wind. Unintended, as straws in the wind usually are, but a reminder nonetheless that the people in Britain (and even that term might itself soon become obsolete) have reverted to pre-Troubles default mode. Ireland (or any part thereof ) is something they know nothing of, and care less about. Now that their various intelligence agencies have finished playing ducks and drakes with democracy in Northern Ireland, and foisted two sets of tribal bigots into power, they can once again pretend that those six north-eastern Irish counties are no longer their business, as they did for 50 ruinous years after 1922.

Another straw in the wind draws near this autumn, though this time, being intended, it is more of a haystack in a hurricane: the probable ending of the Common Travel Area between the islands of Ireland and of Britain, including Northern Ireland. Travellers from the North to Britain will need special documents to gain admission. This is undoing the Good Friday Agreement, Sunningdale, the 1948 Ireland Act, the 1922 Treaty, the 1920 Government of Ireland Act, 1801 Act of Union, the creation of the crown of Ireland in 1541 for Henry VIII, and Poynings’ Laws: moreover, it is the first paninsular annulment of English authority over any part of Ireland whatever since the submission of the Irish kings before Henry II on November 11, 1171.

There is more to this than airborne hay: tectonic plates are moving. Britain looks as if it is breaking up anyway, but even if it’s not, it is clear that there is no genuine British regard for the Ulster unionists. If in the creation of a team for one great international sporting global contest, the British do not even remember that Northern Ireland shares their kingdom, then clearly there is not a surfeit of natural affection there.

  • doctor

    Hell has officially frozen over. I find myself agreeing with a Kevin Myers article.

    Then again, I just read the excerpt posted here by Mick. Maybe the rest of it concerns his in-depth anaylsis of why he thinks the harp is a lame symbol for Ireland, or yet another eulogy to the WWI-era British army.

  • joeCanuck

    They’re not terribly smart. If they had called it “Team GBNI” (pronounced gibney), they might have secured an awesome amount of sponsorship from a certain gin manufacturer.

  • Brian Walker

    I though this was worth posting in full text
    From “Cranmer”

    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.

  • Suilven

    Clue here is in Kevin’s signoff: “More tomorrow”. Today’s column is clearly just a bridge between one of his pet peeves (how Peking became Beijing) and what he really wants to write about. I shall read tomorrow’s column with interest!

  • Brian Walker

    P.S….though while I think Cranmer stirs it beautifully, actually to answer Mick’s question:
    “What does Team GB, not UK, say to you?”
    I’d answer:
    Let’s not be TOO oversensitive and extrapolate from it Kevin Myers-style end-of-empire, collapse of civilisation conclusions, wonderful polemicist and brave heart that Kevin is when there’s real news to make. It’s just mildly annoying in a familiar vein. Don’t let’s expose our sillier insecurities. Let’s settle for variable geometry. NI people can choose their identity brand. Isn’t it wonderful!

  • Driftwood

    Brian
    A bit like being able to have 2 passports, cheaper diesel, smuggling… I wonder how many people in NI like our sense of dual identity/apartness.
    Someone once wrote a book about here called A Place Apart, but I can’t remember who.

  • Newton Emerson

    Dervla Murphy.
    Great book, I’d recommend it. Really summons up the chilling weirdness of the 1970s.

  • Harboy

    The French are actually quite happy to call Britain “Great” if you look into it.

    http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grande-Bretagne

    …though it is only to distinguish it from what is called Brittany in English – the precise reason why the adjective was addded in the first place.

  • Driftwood

    That was it Newton
    I read it about 10 years ago and she was quite flabbergasted by the ‘province’. She wrote some other travel books as well? Always travelling on bicycle.

  • Newton Emerson

    She’s best known for a book about cycling to India, but predictably I’ve only read her book about here. There’s some great set pieces in it – the ones I remembner best are about going to hear Paisley preach at the Martyr’s Memorial, where she is overpowered by a sense of “evil” but wonders how much of it is her own prejudice, and another about attending a Peace-People picnic in front of City Hall while watching Royal Avenue getting evacuated during a bomb warning, and another about walking through Belfast gripped with random paranoia about parked cars and who might be a terrorist walking by.
    They should put this stuff on the syllabus instead of “Bill’s New Frock”. But sure, that’s just crazy talk.

  • Rooster Cogburn

    It means nothing. No more than ‘the Bank England’ means that only one bit of the country benefits/suffers from having a central & reserve bank. For the ultra obscurantists out there, while the derivation of ‘Great Britain’ is simple enough (‘Greater Brittany’), its usage has shifted over time, and much as ‘England’, politically, has too often stood duty for the UK as a whole, centuries before there even was a Union, ‘Great Britain’ was employed to mean what we would today call the ‘British Isles’. For anyone other than the neurotic, is the least big deal there’s *ever* been.

    Meanwhile, I, for once, have to disagree with the Colonel. He’s off on one: there won’t be any document a UK national flying from, say, Belfast to London, has to show, above and beyond what the selfsame British national would have to display, were he flying from, for example, Edinburgh to London. I’ll cheerfully take on all-comers for a bet, any size you like, on that one.

  • OTHER DAVE

    FAO Kevin Meyers

    I think you protest too much; The official name of Team GB is in fact Team Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The Fact that we the People of Northern Ireland are now included as part of Team GB is Fantastic, tho’ we are part of the United Kingdom and not Great Britain we we are included that is the main thing, isn’t it?

    We done TEAM GB (which includes Northern Ireland.

  • Newton Emerson

    Funnily enough, Dervla Murphy concluded after her travels that the term “British Isles”, which as a southerner she had grown up deeply resenting, was in fact the best description of the Archipelago of Here and There.

  • No more than ‘the Bank England’ means that only one bit of the country benefits/suffers from having a central & reserve bank.

    Of course not. And that’s a fine reverse spiral Porky the Pig is executing outside my window.

    Macroeconomic and fiscal policy in the UK is made for the benefit of South East England, and if it doesn’t bugger the rest of the country up too much, that’s just an added bonus. Look at the way in which high interest rates throttled the manufacturing industry in the late 1990s and early 2000s up to 9/11 as the government in vain tried to prevent a property boom in the South East.

    Northern Ireland is not even a fraction of a spot of the Bank’s calculations. Sorry.

  • bob

    good post. NI used to be part of the team, regrettable not now, failure of labour govt
    con govt may treat the great people of ulster better

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    I think it allows cnuts like Myers to write shit like this: “we rhyme Torino with urine”. Do we? When? Where? Who has ever heard of the great Turine team of the 1960s?

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    “good post. NI used to be part of the team, regrettable not now, failure of labour govt con govt may treat the great people of ulster better”

    lol. Ur txt is hilarious. Hoo needs skool?

    FFS!

  • Driftwood

    I remember her describing going to Martyrs memorial Newton. Also being told by an orangeman at the 12th when she enquired what the event was celebrating to “go and read her bible”. I read anoother book about the same time called ‘The Glass Curtain’ by Carlos Somebody.

  • Driftwood

    Wonder who from NI will play in the much vaunted UK wide football team which is to debut at London in 2012?

  • Steve

    Driftwood

    George Best, by then they will both be dead

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    1 “I though this was worth posting in full text”
    It wasn’t. Perhaps you should just post links?

    2 “I remember her describing going to Martyrs memorial Newton… I read anoother book about the same time called ‘The Glass Curtain’ by Carlos Somebody.”

    Anyone else half remember bits of books you read ages ago but can’t quite dredge up with any particular relevancy? Perhaps you can quote hazily some banal point from it or half recall the author’s name?

    The floor is open…

  • niall

    Doesn’t mean anything much to be honest, you can’t reasonably say that “team GB” is evidence of anything other than convenience surely? It’s easier to say and there are only 2/3 NI athletes in a pretty big team anyhow, they got a tracksuit, aren’t actually at home watching the BBC and are British so falling under the oppressive description of being “team GB” may not get them up in anger.

    However the guy who complained about the celtic goalie blessing himself in parliament may want to spend some tax payers money going for an inquest or enquiry on the “team GB” moniker.

    Apparently they have banned the Welsh and Scots flags? yet more provocation for their nationalists?

    As for us 6 county/ni lot we’re fortunate we can represent whichever will have us, if we just get away from our computers to train a bit we could meet for a pint in Stratford in 4 years time?

    Fair play to all the athletes from these shores over there. I’d like to congratulate them all on their efforts and i can’t wait for the Boxing to come.

    I like the boxing because it seems there is a much bigger spread of geography and also the economic fortunes of the countries seem not to matter? I don’t generally follow it but it’s been great seeing the Armenians, Mongolians, Kazagstani’s, Indians and more go toe to toe with countries we always see having olympic success.

    This makes Paddy Barnes, Egan, Sutherland and the GB boxers achievements of their medals even better in my view.

  • Apparently they have banned the Welsh and Scots flags?

    The IOC banned any flags that weren’t the national flag of a participating National Olympic Committee.

    I imagine that has something to do with Tibet?

  • Mike

    Brian Walker

    Where do you get the information that the BOA does not include Northern Ireland?

    The BOA website seems pretty clear:

    “Team GB is the Great Britain and Northern Ireland Olympic Team.”

    http://www.olympics.org.uk/contentpage.aspx?page=127

    And:

    “The British Olympic Association (BOA) is the National Olympic Committee (NOC) for Great Britain and Northern Ireland.”

    http://www.olympics.org.uk/contentpage.aspx?page=20

  • 0b101010

    you can’t reasonably say that “team GB” is evidence of anything other than convenience surely? It’s easier to say

    Easier to say than Team UK?

  • Dewi

    Wot – “Team GB and the six counties” ?

  • joeCanuck

    Great Britain, the 6 counties and the Conservatives comes out as GB Victory.

  • RG Cuan

    I don’t think you can read too much into the name although it probably does reflect to some extent the way the majority of people in Britain view NI.

    Just wondering, do Unionists here really identify with the British Olympic team anyway – especially all that BBC hyperbole?

    There are more athletes from NI (both communities) representing Ireland than GB this year.

  • Mike

    “Just wondering, do Unionists here really identify with the British Olympic team anyway”

    Yes.

  • Rooster Cogburn

    Yes, RG, hard as it is for you to concede this, we do identify with our national team. Much, I imagine, as you do with yours. It really is all much less complex than you fear.

  • culligan

    The British Isles thing may make Dervla Murphy feel comfortable but not me.

    It infers that Britain is a British Isle – fair enough, but also that Ireland is a British Isle.

    Nope, sorry, not having it.

    Not on the basis of geology, history, geography, race, culture, religion, language, music, outlook.

    Britain is not an Irish Isle, and Ireland is not a British Isle.

    I know we all look and sound the same to Europeans and colonials, and we drive on the left, and argue about last orders at the bar but it ain’t enough when you look deeper into it.

  • RG Cuan

    It’s not hard for me to concede Rooster, I was just wondering.

    The British team seems so detached from life here in NI, and quite a few people from a traditionally Unionist background are now representing the island of their birth instead.

    Good luck to both teams in the remaining competitions!

  • Mick Fealty

    RG,

    Wayne McCullough from the Shnakill fought for Ireland, Barry McGuigan from Clones fought in the Commonwealth Games for Northern Ireland. Steve Martin took 135 caps Ireland and 94 for GB. He worked as Deputy Chief Executive with the British Olympic Association, and is currently Chief Executive for OCI having played a key role in getting the Olympics to London.

    Perception is one thing, reality another.

  • TAFKABO

    So Northern Ireland isn’t included in the terminology team GB, if that isn’t evidence that the rest of the Uk has suddenly forgotten NI exists then I don’t know what is. Why imagine if another constituent part of the UK, let’s say Wales for instance, wasn’t even included in the national flag?

    Slow news day lads?

  • An Ceilleachaireach Rua

    TAFKABO,

    I think you’ll find that that arrangement suits quite a few Welsh people perfectly well in my experience…

  • eranu

    personally id prefer Team UK. GB is the part of the UK we travel to by boat or plane. if the official team name is Team GB and NI shortened to Team GB, its a mildly inaccurate niggle but nothing more.
    on NI athletes representing UK or Ireland. id be pretty sure that an athlete would do anything they could to go to the olympics. how many chances will they get in their life, maybe 3? its silly to read politics into it. its actually quite a handy number for NI to have 2 chances to go to the olympics when most countries only have one.

  • George

    Brian,
    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?

    At the 1908 London Games, there was a big furore as many Irish athletes wanted to march behind a flag representing Ireland.

    As a sort of sop, the name of the UK team was changed to Great Britain/Ireland and Ireland did compete as a country in hockey and polo.

  • 6countyprod

    On the basis of history (from early 1600’s), geography (lakes+mountains – natural borders), race, culture, religion, language, sport, legal tender and outlook, NI is more British than Irish. The whole of Ireland was once, but is no longer a British island. But part of it still is, and will, for a long time, be part of the Great British group of nations.

    Having travelled quite a lot over the past few years in old and new Europe, North America and West Africa, I have found that using the name Great Britain has been much more useful to communicate the idea of being British than using United Kingdom. For those who seem really interested, I try to explain the intricacies of the official title, but it really doesn’t matter for most people. (Have you ever had a Dutch person explain to you why he is not from Holland?)

    For probably most of the world, GB is a synonym for UK, although most Sluggerites know that, strictly speaking, that is not the case. A couple of months ago when paying for a motel room in the US, the receptionist couldn’t connect my home address and postcode with a country. I told him to try GB instead of UK, and my credit card worked fine.

    The 6 Counties/The North/NI/’Ulster’ is British, and has not intention of changing to anything else in the foreseeable future.

  • runciter

    On the basis of history (from early 1600’s), geography (lakes+mountains – natural borders), race, culture, religion, language, sport, legal tender and outlook, NI is more British than Irish.

    Amazing.

  • Newton Emerson

    This is all down to the fact that the English language has no adjective for “UK”, just as it has no separate adjective for “the United States”, which in turn is probably down to the arrogance of cultural dominance.

    Spanish has a distinct adjective for “United States” (estadounidense) as opposed to “American”, unsurprisingly given the number of Spanish-speakers in the Americas. French also has the word étasunien. French- and Spanish-speakers presumably never have that boring argument with Canadians.

    So we just need to unshackle ourselves from this false lexico-geographic link between Britishness and the island of Britain by coining an adjective for the UK. Bette Midler once suggested that UK should be pronounced “Yuck”. Maybe Gordon Brown could start promoting Yuckiness?

  • 6countyprod

    runciter,
    did you not hear that we have a footpath connecting us to Scotland?

  • RG Cuan

    On the basis of history (from early 1600’s), geography (lakes+mountains – natural borders), race, culture, religion, language, sport, legal tender and outlook, NI is more British than Irish.

    Must be one of the funniest statements I’ve ever read on Slugger.

  • Rooster Cogburn

    Stick around then for the next set of Provette postings on SF’s policing policy. You’ll probably laugh yourself to death.

  • Brian Walker

    Mike, along with your very useful and deflating links you very fairly ask:

    Where do you get the information that the BOA does not include Northern Ireland?

    The BOA website seems pretty clear:

    “Team GB is the Great Britain and Northern Ireland Olympic Team.”

    I didn’t pronounce of the subject personally, but
    I thought the Cranmer piece was worth running anyway as a rare example of GB- based respect for NI sensitivities; then adding my own “variable geometry” point, whereby NI people can enjoy the best of both world more often than falling between two stools. It’s worth adding that more and more, the term “UK” in general usage is supplanting the term “Great Britain” and the shorter “Britain,” even though many people don’t know the actual difference – and don’t, I suppose, care much.

  • DK

    “Team GB is the Great Britain and Northern Ireland Olympic Team.”

    Is Team Ireland’s full title “Team Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland”?

  • Greagoir O’ Frainclin

    See that Kevin Myers was on again today in the Indo about an Ireland nation.

    Surprising as Kevin Myers has been an extreme critic of SF and their brand of republicanism and has been very sympathetic to Ulster Unionism.

  • #

    “Just wondering, do Unionists here really identify with the British Olympic team anyway”

    Yes.
    Posted by Mike on Aug 19, 2008 @ 11:33 PM

    But they certainly don’t identify with you lot, most of them haven’t even heard of the place and don’t know they even govern it, maybe only in a falklands, gibraltar colonial type of way. Galling and Sad isn’t it.

  • Dewi
  • JFW

    Id says daid Norn Iron peepul r tae lasy tae complain aboot an instanse dat cud be seen as ignorning da whingiest peepul in da werlt!

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Culligan,

    “Britain is not an Irish Isle, and Ireland is not a British Isle.”

    That being the case, is the Irish Sea an Irish Sea then? If not, why not?

    Hi TAFKABO,

    “So Northern Ireland isn’t included in the terminology team GB, if that isn’t evidence that the rest of the Uk has suddenly forgotten NI exists then I don’t know what is. Why imagine if another constituent part of the UK, let’s say Wales for instance, wasn’t even included in the national flag?”

    The Welsh red dragon represents the “indigenous” British, who will have their land returned after the white dragon (Anglo-Saxons) has been vanquished. I’m not sure that really suits a modern UK.

  • Arconada Armstrong

    One of the most high-profile sportsmen in ‘Team GB’ took part in the Madison the other night – Mark Cavendish, winner of 4 stages on this year’s Tour De France unfortunately didn’t pick up a medal but one doubts that in the Isle of Man, where Cav is from, there wasn’t too much existential whinging or glee that the team he represented wasn’t called Team GB&IOM;. Nor for that matter in Guernsey at the achievements of local equestrian Carl Hester in Sydney and Athens.

  • RepublicanStones

    ‘On the basis of history (from early 1600’s), geography (lakes+mountains – natural borders), race, culture, religion, language, sport, legal tender and outlook, NI is more British than Irish.’

    Comical, please more of the same.

  • Alan

    GB represents people from Great Britain. What’s the big deal? Everyone sees the UK as GB because that’s where 98 per cent of it is. The North of Ireland is no man’s land under London control. If they cared about Unionists they could as easily say team UK. They don’t, because Irish Unionists are irrelevant to GB.

    Say to anyone in Ireland of whatever nationality, (excluding a Unionist) that you’re going to the UK and it automatically means you’re going over to Great Britain. Say to anyone in GB you’re going to Belfast it means you’re going over to Ireland; innately different from GB/UK.

    Team GB represents people from GB. Ireland represents people from Ireland. Unionists are just GB hangers on, I’m afraid.

  • Dewi

    Wales has a wonderful flag of our own thank you. Whgich we don’t mnd waving in Beijing. Sod the petty Chinese bureaucrats:

    Tom James wins gold

    Just a shame our swimmers find it difficult to swim straight….

    David Davies

  • Dewi

    Which we don’t mind – sorry