As the opening of the 2012 Olympic Games draws ever nearer, the sniffier end of the commentariat at the Maily Telegraph is once again looking down its collective noses at the number of foreign born competitors in Team GB, and bandying around the overused and unnecessarily pejorative term “Plastic Brits”. Yet they do not resort to such claims when the sport is Cricket, and nor have they in the past.
Four of the current England team hail from South Africa, including test skipper Andrew Strauss. Moreover, many past players and captains were not born in England, including not just the obvious ones like Tony Greig, but also Scot Mike Denness, Colin Cowdrey (born in Bangalore), Bob Woolmer (also originally from India), Derek Pringle (Kenya) and Ted Dexter (Italy).
But this does not trouble the Tel, where horrified and suitably upstanding British readers are told that 61 of the 542 members of Team GB were born outside the country. Fine, so how many of these folks do not hold a British passport? Well, that number would be zero, none, nil, zilch, nada. So there should not be a problem with their competing under the Union Flag.
Instead, the piece takes exception to the decision of Tiffany Porter, born in the USA, who refused to “recite the national anthem” for an enquiring hack. Good for her. Her mother is British, so what’s the problem? The Tel never complained about all those from the four corners of the Empire that volunteered to be routinely slaughtered on the battlefields of the Great War, so why the problem over 61 athletes?
This is just cheap and jingoistic rubbish meeting Phil Space journalism. Sadly, it may yet continue: if any of those concerned win medals, that will be fine, but if they fail, there will be more why-oh-why copy generated suggesting that Brits that are not deemed by the Tel to be “Plastic” will have been denied their chance. Perhaps this is another of those subjects where Tony Gallagher has a bee in his bonnet.
For his sake, I hope he has a better exit strategy than when he went after the BBC recently, only for it to be revealed that he was standing in an awfully draughty glasshouse. Otherwise, let’s get on with the Games and forget this drivel.