Let's hear it if you're British
22:46 GMT, 27 July 2012
Let's get this straight. Everyone representing Great Britain during this Olympics is participating in a form of national service, whether they like it or not.
It’s not military duty, of course, and I wouldn’t be so crass as to draw a direct parallel, not when men and women fresh from postings in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere are around us at the Olympic Park helping the spectacle of the 2012 Games to take place.
But the phrase 'national service' has meaning and relevance in a sporting context too, since every single one of the athletes draping themselves in the Union flag over the course of the next 16 days is representing this nation. And that honour carries with it certain expectations and responsibilities.
Silent minority: Neil Taylor (left) and Ryan Giggs (right) stay mum as Jack Butland belts it out
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The first is to show some respect for the flag they are here to represent. And one of the ways to do that is to sing the anthem.
The sight of Welsh players standing there tight-lipped as the camera panned along the line of the British football team at Old Trafford on Thursday night was embarrassing. It was rude, dispiriting and out of keeping with the Olympian spirit.
This is a quite simple scenario. If you’re British enough to wear the Team GB badge and represent Britain at the Olympic Games then you should be British enough to sing the National Anthem.
That just happens to be God Save The Queen. So sing it. Of course, if any Welshman or woman, any Scot or Northern Irish soul decides in a private capacity they are unwilling to do this, they are perfectly entitled to that view. One of the great freedoms this country offers is the freedom to say parts of it stink. I actually think the anthem is a bit of a dirge. See
But when you elect to represent the United Kingdom of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on the world stage any claim to be ambivalent about the concept of Team GB disappears.
I’m staggered the Welsh players — and Ryan Giggs in particular —even put themselves in such an ignoble position. Their little gesture of silent protest was clearly pre-planned. So if coach Stuart Pearce knew in advance Giggs and Co had some kind of ‘issue’ with the anthem, then the Manchester United player should never have been chosen to captain the side in the first place.
As for the skipper, if the anthem really is such an ordeal to him, perhaps Giggs might also like to review the honour he received from the Queen in December of 2007 and stick his OBE in the post back to Mrs E Windsor c/o Buckingham Palace, London.
The idea that anyone is turning up for the Olympics on sufferance or with conditions attached to their participation is infuriating. Appearing at the London Olympics for Britain is an extraordinary privilege.
What on earth was the point of
standing there like a dummy while the anthem played anyway As gestures
of dissent go, it was fairly puerile. It was hardly a Black Power salute
circa 1968. And, the last time I checked, the Welsh were not an overtly
oppressed race these days. If that were the case, Robbie Savage would
not be allowed on television.
The posturing from our women
footballers was equally preposterous. Two Scots, Kim Little and Ifeoma
Dieke, refused to join in with God Save The Queen before their midweek
victory over New Zealand.
Little told a radio interviewer: ‘I
personally probably won’t sing (the National Anthem) but we’ll be
standing there proud to represent the country. It’s just a personal
choice for me.’
For whom the Bell tolls: The Liverpool striker bagged the goal for Team GB
Someone should explain to Little that she has already made her personal choice. She could have stayed away; she could have chosen to stick with her Scottish allegiance rather than see it subsumed into Team GB. But, no, Little chose to be part of the team. So she should behave like part of the team.
This doesn’t often happen in other sports. The Welsh members of the women’s hockey team have no issue with the anthem. I cannot recall any dissent among the Scots in the cycling. Is football unique in its tribal arrogance
Backing up Becks
Did you see what Paul McCartney had to say
about the absence of David Beckham from the Olympic football team
The 70-year-old ex-Beatle complained: 'Some
person somewhere said: “so-and-so's playing better” – like it matters. I thought Beckham would be first choice. But some idiot decided otherwise.'
And so a showbiz star, that used to be in a decent team but has since left their best days behind them, stood up for another showbiz star, that used to be in a decent team but has since left their best days behind them. It’s the circle of celebrity life.
Yes, there are English footballers who
have declined to sing the anthem in the past. But Roy Hodgson has
changed that and even a reluctant Wayne Rooney joined in at the European
Pearce should follow suit. No doubt some individual members of Team GB arrived at the athletes’ village under the impression they are running, jumping or throwing only for themselves. They are soon disabused of that notion.
They discover they are competing on behalf of all the proud and enthusiastic people who lined the streets for a fleeting glimpse of the Olympic torch as it passed by, regardless of wind, rain or blazing sun.
They find they are at London 2012 for the ordinary people who have scrimped and saved to buy a ticket to an event — ANY event — just so they can share in the greatest sporting occasion these isles will host in our lifetimes.
They are doing it for the tens of thousands in front of the big screens in the parks of London, Cardiff, Swansea, Edinburgh, Belfast and right across the UK; the tens of thousands in the stadia; the millions tuning in across the nation and the billions more watching around the globe. That is why the British public will cheer on competitors they might not know, in sports they don’t fully comprehend, as if they were rooting for a member of their family.
They are a part of Team GB too. That is the burden the lucky 541 who make up our Olympic team must bear.
Pegged back: Senegal left it late to equalise and share the spoils at Old Trafford
But football is often too bloated with its own importance to look beyond its own interests. The whole backdrop to assembling this Team GB football squad has been a story of unashamed insularity and committee-seat-saving pettiness. It is reprehensible that the football associations of Scotland and Northern Ireland turned their backs on this opportunity.
It is also quite pathetic that Gareth Bale played for his club in a pre-season tour match rather than represent Britain at the Games.
Alive and kicking
Quite how Senegal managed to finish the 1-1 draw against Team GB with all 11 players on the field was quite a puzzle.
I hear the International Olympic Committee plan to apologise to Stuart Pearce’s men for the relentless kicking they received.
The explanation is they accidentally sent a referee to Old Trafford who was supposed to be in charge of the taekwondo.
No doubt he was pressured by his club,
and Tottenham’s huffy statement that he merely recovered from a back
injury a bit earlier than expected did nothing to quell the general
shabbiness of it all.
Bale was happy to parade in the Team GB kit before the tournament. When the crunch came, he was in America kicking a ball for his club and missing the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to win an Olympic medal on British soil. It’s his loss. Truly.
There will be heroes at London 2012. There will be inspiring stories. For a couple of weeks, let us hope the football becomes an integral part of the spectacle that unites so much of Britain, rather than a sideshow that makes us cringe.
A billboard slogan on the way to the Olympic Park summed it up rather well for me. It is a message Giggs and the rest might like to remember. It said: ‘The eyes of the world are on London. Try to look good.’
It certainly does look wonderful. The park is stunning. The arenas are magnificent. Lord Coe has fashioned a wonderful stage for the Olympics. Now it is up to the athletes and the competitors of Team GB to make the 2012 Games a success. And give us plenty to sing about along the way, too.
Battle of Old Trafford: Team GB were on the end of some robust challenges from Senegal
Oh no, not the working class
One broadsheet columnist had a severe attack of the vapours this week.
The panic attack was induced by a worry that last night's Opening Ceremony was – and allow me to quote directly – 'in danger of becoming a little too, well, working class'.
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Thankfully, I hear his servants were on hand. They swiftly carried the correspondent to his 16th-century giltwood fainting couch, where he was fed chilled chamomile tea through a pipette and fanned vigorously until his senses were becalmed.
For heaven’s sake, who let the working class into east London
And why didn’t they warn the Daily Telegraph first The great unwashed appear to be swarming all over the Olympic Park (which was something they took great care to avoid in Beijing). Many of the interlopers may not be Oxbridge graduates either. Some have ‘community college’ written all over them.
Other ‘working class’ types are here in military uniform; others provide first aid or serve food and drink. They’re everywhere. How is this delicate soul going to survive Do intravenous drips of antiseptic hand gel exist
East End heroes: Some people claimed the Opening Ceremony would be too working class
Give her gold now
The Malaysian woman, Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi, makes her Olympic debut this weekend in one of the shooting competitions. I mention this because there is a significant detail to add. She is eight months pregnant.
Does anyone else think it might be unwise to hand a heavily pregnant woman a firearm I’m no expert in this field, but at the eight-month stage it is an established scientific fact that around 97 percent of a female’s bloodstream consists of neat hormones.
Rational discussion is not an option. It is like negotiating with a grizzly bear. Random demands are issued, such as ‘I want a lemon curd, anchovy and toothpaste toastie — and I want it RIGHT NOW!’, often while sobbing, laughing and throwing a plate at the wall at the same time. And we’re still going to allow this woman to wander around London 2012 with a gun
Mum's the word: Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi is eight months pregnant