Kim Little is a good point to focus a discussion about the issue around National Anthems; although she was not the only one involved, she serves as a case in point.
Quite rightly, she refused to sing what is recognised in these islands as England’s national anthem. She was firm in her refusal to participate although the British Olympic Committee had reportedly issued an edict that all athletes should learn it.
Let us consider the fact that there’s an English national anthem. That National anthem is “God save the Queen”. Also let’s consider that this anthem has never been formally adopted, like the Union flag, by either act of parliament or royal proclamation.
It has a verse, disused through “national sensitivities”, yet it has never been officially changed. It remains England’s national anthem; it is seldom sung in modern times in Scotland or Wales. Each nation has songs of its own that it prefers to use in various circumstances.
That unsung verse goes something like this.
Lord, grant that Marshal Wade,
May by thy mighty aid,
May he sedition hush,
And like a torrent rush,
Rebellious Scots to crush,
God save the King/Queen.
The GB Olympics team organizers have traditionally adopted the English anthem as the GB Olympic team anthem. Surely this denigrates the history, allegiance and pride in heritage that athletes not from England might have.
Sebastian Coe, in large part an individual who has been credited with driving these games towards their massively overspent conclusion was said to have been “furious”.
Fatima Whitbread launched into the debate with comments based in the fact that athletes competing for Team GB should conform and sing/respect that anthem when asked.
Mr. Coe, Ms. Whitbread and others would do well to recall that these athletes have an inbuilt right of protest in any arena in which they are required to compete under a GB banner. These athletes had no choice; they were refused the ability to compete for their own nations.
The only really surprising thing about the entire debacle is that it has taken so long to surface, but like the small crack in the dam, it is without doubt only the smallest inkling of what is to come.
How long will it be, one wonders, before an athlete, Welsh, Scottish or Northern Irish becomes a medal recipient but refuses to take the podium because of their belief in the abominable history behind a song the London establishment would have us believe is an “official” anthem.
That day will mark a turning point indeed, for although we don’t expect it at these Olympics, who can say it will not happen.
The feats will stand attributed to the individual, for that can never be taken away. The ruckus that follows will fall squarely at the feet of the “British” establishment and the crown.
Such a public display from individuals such as Kim Little, Ryan Giggs and the others who will not recognise this song is but a prelude of what is to come. The public humiliation which the establishment will have to bear will know few bounds when that athlete refuses to take the podium, for it will signal most publically to the world at large that we are not one country.
It will herald to the billions of onlookers that we are four nations welded by the will and subterfuge of Westminster and its “British” associations, and it will tell them in so public a fashion that we are not what they wish, that we are independent peoples of proud nations who have been forced into a Union over which our individual constituents had neither consultation over, nor input.
It will highlight that Wales was a conquered land and that Scots were rioting and rebelling for years after the Union treaty. It will demonstrate it is and has always been, an uneasy alliance.
And it will effectively reduce or prohibit Scots and Welsh from participating in any “Team GB”. They will have little chance of being selected, without swearing allegiance first to everything the “UK” stands for.
Some may so swear, under duress, simply to compete, but when the first such recovers their principles on the podium, or after at the press conference – what then for the selection committees?
“Team GB” will not do what it needs to do, in its myriad guises. It will not divide itself and strengthen the opportunities of the individuals within these nations to compete for their own country. It will not allow two, or three or four qualifiers from Scotland, Wales, England or Northern Ireland to each compete. This would have given a situation where Chris Hoy could have defended ALL his gold medals.
Instead Team GB will do as it has always done, and it will set itself up for the ultimate embarrassment that will be delivered by athlete with principles and belief.
In either case, following the breach in the dam at the 2012 London, no - not even British, or UK Olympics, there is no way back.
For the various “Team GB’s” who are not founded on a basis like the “Lions” but are force welded without the benefit of existing national teams there is only one path forward.
They will fragment, it will be up to history to record, decades hence, whether the decent was honourable retrenchment or simply transpired as a result of public embarrassment and ridicule.