Friday, August 22, 2008

The EU and Olympics

Not content with making a mess of things over the Caucasus (though Sarkozy must be running up quite spectacular air miles) the EU is once again poking its collective nose into matters to do with sport.

Yesterday I was rung up by a journalist from the Sunday Express, who was working on an article about the EU wanting to have just one Olympic team. What did I think about that? Well, I was on a bus so it would have been difficult to say openly what I thought of such an incredibly stupid idea, so I contented myself with laughing heartily.

Iain Dale raised the subject a few days ago, making it clear that he did not agree either. The point is that some bright sparks have added up the medals that the various EU member states have won and pointed out that together they would have put the EU into top position.

Of course, I explained to the journalist, this is not how it would work. The EU operates on a proportional input principle and every member state would have to supply the right number of athletes to create a "real European" team. It would not be merely all the existing teams put together.

I must admit the journalist was sceptical that this idea would ever have legs. After all, he said, we are doing rather well in the medals table and are unlikely to support the idea of becoming part of a European Union team. That is true though it is an inadequate argument since it implies that if we were doing our usual not-very-bright sporting best, the notion of joining up with the others in one team would become acceptable.

Can you imagine, I asked, anybody cheering for an EU Olympic team. He could not even though journalists, in my experience, can believe six impossible things before breakfast with great ease.

So, will this idea now die, he asked. Certainly not. It will come up with the next Olympics, Winter Olympics and any other international competition. The point is that the EU is desperate to create that famed European identity and is failing to do so. Support for one's team is visceral and if only that could be transferred to a "European" team away from the existing national ones, the EU would see its way clear towards that "identity". Let's face it, nothing else has worked.

I did not add the obvious rider, which is that the Olympic Games are not supposed to be about national teams, anyway. That famous Olympic spirit, always trotted out pompously by the IOC when any criticism of certain countries, such as China, are voiced, says that it is individual or sport team (such as football or relay) achievements that matter not what nationality the contestants are. What a nice idea. I wonder if they will have flying pig competitions.

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