True Brit

By , Posted on 26th March 2012 - Posted in: News

Britain’s athletics team recorded their best ever medal haul in the recent World Athletics Indoor Championships in Istanbul, Turkey. The nine medals (2 gold, 3 silver, and 4 bronze) eclipsed the previous best of seven in 2003 and with the Olympic Games about to pitch up in London in a few months time the boost to morale could hardly have been better timed.

Not least amongst the encouraging signs was the fact that while several of our top performers chose to miss the tournament medals were won in events not traditionally associated with British athletes. Holly Bleasdale won bronze in the pole vault for example and while Andrew Osagie’s 800 metre bronze may not seem to be of earth shaking significance it needs to be remembered that GB’s dominance of middle distance running ended around the time Olympic Games organising committee chairman Sebastian Coe hung up his spikes.

The real story of the games though was the inclusion of the so-called ‘plastic Brits’, the athletes with strong foreign backgrounds, who have been fast-tracked into the GB athletics squad. These athletes were not bit-part players drafted in to make up the numbers. That, perhaps may have been more acceptable to some people, but no what we are talking about are leading competitors and genuine medal hopes. The women’s team was captained by American-born high-hurdler Tiffany Porter, while gold medalist Yamile Aldama was born in Cuba and had previously represented Sudan at international level.

Quite simply Britain has cynically upped it’s medal total by drafting in top notch talent at the exclusion of that which is home produced. With the Olympic Games looming it’s a process which appears to be rife across the various sporting disciplines of the games. It’s estimated that some nine percent of Britain’s full Olympic squad of 550 will contain competitors born outside of the UK but who nonetheless qualify as British through dual nationality.

But does it matter? After all no rules have been broken here and it may be argued that if other nations are doing it (and they are) then why not Britain? It’s natural for the host nation to want to produce an impressive tally of medals at an Olympic Games. If an athlete wants to represent the country, and has legitimate credentials to do so, then I see no problem. Will anyone really care if one of these plastic Brits standing on a medal podium with a gold medal around his/her neck doesn’t know the words to the national anthem? I suppose many will. I’ll not be amongst the number though.

 

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