The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) states on the London 2012 website:
“It is our aim to make diversity and inclusion a key differentiator of our Games, celebrating the many differences among the cultures and communities of the United Kingdom”.
However, the British Olympic Association don’t seem to share LOCOG’s aims. The BOA is the organisation behind the ‘TeamGB’ branding and the use of the terminology ‘Great Britain’ to describe the team from the United Kingdom and the Crown Dependencies. They claim that the team represents Great Britain and Northern Ireland although in many cases the mentions of Northern Ireland are few and far between, for example nowhere on the TeamGB homepage does it mention the fact the team includes Northern Ireland. You have to look in the small print in the FAQs or the About page to see a mention of the fact:
The British Olympic Association (BOA) is the National Olympic Committee (NOC) for Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The BOA is responsible for the participation in the Olympic Games of athletes from GB and NI, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands and UK Overseas Territories which do not have their own National Olympic Committee.
Abbreviating the team name to GB or Great Britain is non-inclusive and doesn’t truly reflect the geographical area that the BOA is responsible for, here’s a quick geography lesson:
UK = United Kingdom
The UK or United Kingdom is an abbreviation or short form of the official name of the soverign state “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”. It includes the following:
- Northern Ireland
14 British Overseas Terrorities are also under the jurisdiction of the UK but are not part of it.
GB = Great Britain
Great Britain is the largest island in the British Isles which includes most of:
Politically it often refers to the island itself and the surrounding islands that constitute these three home nations.
These are not part of the United Kingdom or Great Britain but are possessions of the British Crown.
- Isle of Man
- Channel Islands (the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey)
The word Britain originates from the Roman Province Britannia that covered most of modern day England and Wales and part of Southern Scotland for 367 years from AD 43 to AD 410.
Is a geographical term referring to a group of islands including:
- Great Britain
- Ireland (including the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland)
- Channel Islands
- Isle of Man
Will it ever change?
Anyone who understands the above will see that in no way does GB or Great Britain include Northern Ireland, a country with 1.8 million people (2011) that has already provided several medals in these games and many more in past.
When the subject has been discussed in the past the BOA has refused to change the name however it has been encouraging to see some organisations taking positive action on this matter:
- BBC – have changed ‘Great Britain’ to ‘Great Britain & N. Ireland’ in many parts of the website.
Google – have changed ‘Great Britain’ to ‘United Kingdom’
[Update 07/08/2012: The Google medal tables have reverted to using 'Great Britain']
We can only hope that the BOA see how non-inclusive their current branding is and update it to a more inclusive name such as Team UK ‘United Kingdom’ for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia or at least by the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Zoe Salmon has also called for the team to be rebranded Team GBNI or Team UK.
On another note, it has been very disappointing to see how poorly TeamGB has treated one of Northern Ireland’s top Gold Medal potentials Wendy Houvenaghel.
Whilst we can get bogged down in naming disputes (and the folks in Norn’ Iron’ are especially good at this – perhaps that should be an olympic sport?) we should remember that it’s the taking part that counts and I wish all the competitors in both the Ireland and Great Britain / United Kingdom teams all the best for the remaining games and the Paralympics in September!