Tag Archives: Team GB

Is it Disrespectful Not to Sing your National Anthem at the Olympics?

The question of whether Olympic athletes should sing their country’s national anthem has divided opinion among many sports professionals, media commentators, and others, particularly with regards to certain individuals opting not to sing ‘God Save the Queen’.

Some regard it as disrespectful to the country they are representing, and the other athletes in their team, if they choose not to sing the national anthem, whereas others regard it as a matter of personal choice and no big deal.

I think the issue has perhaps become slightly more contentious, certainly in Scotland anyway, given the political debate surrounding the Scottish Government’s planned independence referendum.

But putting the independence debate to one side, I think there would always have been some form of conscientious objection from a few athletes coming from Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, countries which have, often justifiably, felt of secondary importance to the perceived London centric policies and preferences of successive Westminster Governments.

Whilst the athletes will clearly acknowledge that they are representing Great Britain at these Olympic Games, nevertheless there will be a strong sense of nationalistic pride in their distinct countries that means some of them would be unwilling to sing an anthem widely used as an English national anthem, which is lyrically antagonistic to the Scots, and which supports a monarchy that feels utterly alien to their cultural identity, politics and social circumstances.

On the other hand, there is a sense of legitimacy about the criticisms levied against these athletes. They have voluntarily agreed to represent Great Britain; and whether they agree with it or not, the national anthem of Great Britain is ‘God Save the Queen’.

If the organising committees deem it disrespectful not to sing the national anthem, and have instructed the athletes to do so, then arguably it is right to criticise those opting out of this part of their involvement. They had the choice to decline their selection in the first place, regardless of whether this would have left them with no alternative.

But my position is this: I do not agree with the view that choosing not to sing the national anthem is disrespectful; nor do I think that it diminishes an athlete’s sporting commitment to his country or to the rest of his team.

For the athletes, their respect for the team, and for the country financially supporting their opportunity, is displayed in the honest hard work, discipline and training in the years leading up to the event, and in their attitude and performance on the day.

Perhaps if one of them were to stand on the medal podium, scratch their arse with one hand whilst gesticulating randomly to the crowd with the other, then we could say that they were being disrespectful.

Or perhaps if one of them had been guilty of taking performance enhancing drugs, whilst ‘respectfully’ singing along to their national anthem, then we could rightly levy this criticism against them; and let’s face it, there have been many athletes representing many countries who have done that sort of thing in the past.

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Scottish Players in Team GB?

The last time a Team GB participated in Olympic Games was in the Rome Games in 1960. The team was knocked out in the first round of the competition. In 2012, Team GB will be under the management of the English FA, with Stuart Pearce and Hope Powell making up the coaching team.

The question is: should Scottish players take part in a Team GB in the 2012 Olympic Games? Former Scotland manager, Craig Brown, thinks that any player who decided to play for a Team GB would be ‘selfish’, and that participation in this tournament could potentially affect the independence of the Scottish national team.

Despite assurances to the contrary from FIFA many people share Craig Brown’s concerns about a Team GB. Indeed, the Northern Irish and Welsh FA’s are also strongly opposed to the idea. Any player from these nations selected by Pearce would therefore be under immense pressure not to participate.

The first question is this: would the participation of Scottish players in a Team GB threaten the future independence of the Scottish national team? Probably not. FIFA have already given their assurances that this would not be the case.

Furthermore, England would also lose its independence as a national team if this concern were to come to fruition and at the moment, given recent history and FIFA world rankings, England would have more to lose than Scotland.

The second and more important question is this: why would a Scottish player want to play for Team GB when already playing for Scotland? Perhaps, as a professional sportsperson, he may want to prove himself in a different role and in a different context.

He may, as a professional sportsperson, choose to put all political concerns to the background and concentrate on achieving excellence in his chosen sport. That is what being a professional sportsperson is all about, after all. And this, surely, is not being selfish?

It seems to me that if the assurances of FIFA are to be taken at face value, then there is no real sporting reason why Scottish players should not participate in a Team GB. Scottish athletes participate in GB Teams without any questions being asked, so why not football?

Perhaps the real reason is political. Perhaps the concern is that if Scottish players were to participate in Team GB, they would be unintentionally betraying the nationalistic, independence agenda? I am not so sure that this is actually the case, despite what many of us may feel.

Personally, I think that Scottish players should not participate in a Team GB. However, I am at a loss to give a good reason why I think it would be wrong, other than this.

So perhaps I just need to accept that it comes to this: I am blindly patriotic to Scotland, and extremely passionate about football, to an extent that I would allow these emotions to affect my judgement, such that anything that could threaten either, even in a very small way, would be deemed wrong.

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