October 01, 2005

Not-So-United Kingdom

As host nation for the 2012 summer Olympics, Great Britain has an automatic spot in all of the team sport tournaments. You might expect that soccer, in particular, would be a medal hope for the UK. You'd be wrong, though — Great Britain has not even entered the Olympic tournament since 1972.

UK at the Olympics

Great Britain last competed in the Olympic soccer tournament in 1972. In 1974 the English FA abolished the formal distinction between professional and amateur soccer players. This left all English players ineligible for the Olympics, which were then only open to amateurs.

In more recent times, the various national associations have been reluctant to field a Great Britain team at the Olympics because they were nervous for their independent status within FIFA, and specifically for the World Cup.

Britain's Olympic History - The FA

The major stumbling block is that while the Olympic team competes under the British flag, England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are fiercely separate entities in soccer.

A few weeks ago FIFA president Sepp Blatter stated that Great Britain would field men's and women's soccer teams for the 2012 Olympic Games. There are some wrinkles to be ironed out, but England coach Sven Goran Eriksson and other English soccer officials are behind the idea, and it looks ready to go ahead.

Somebody forgot to send the Scots the memo, though; now Scottish fans want their own Olympic team for 2012. Not just for soccer, mind you, but for everything — and they think they've found a loophole. The Olympic Charter states:

Although most national Olympic committees are from nations, the IOC also recognises independent territories, commonwealths, protectorates and geographical areas.

They're right, of course; Puerto Rico, for example, sends its own team, and there have been numerous other examples of "geographical areas" like the so-called Unified Team in the 1992 games.

And of course, if it's a good idea for Scotland, it must be a good idea for Wales, too. Watch for Northern Ireland's petition in the next few days.

Incidentally, the Welsh article references one of the world's most abused performance measures, the medals-per-capita scoring system:

For a small nation [Wales] have always punched above our weight at international competitions - achieving greater success per head of population than any other country in the UK at Manchester's 2002 Commonwealth Games.

That reminds me of a story, and of course begs a few good charts, but that will have to wait for another day.


Anonymous said...

give us the story!

Amateur said...

You want it, you got it, but I made it a new post.