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Thursday 2 August 2012

Dan, Dan, The Sports Team Man

The enthusiasm for sport at the Maily Telegraph has extended to its bloggers, notably Dan, Dan The Oratory Man. Hannan has characteristically given his readers a take on sporting competition that only someone fixated on the European Union could manage. “No-one would be cheering for Team Europe” he asserts, adding “The patriotic emotions stirred up by the Olympics are the basis of real democracy”.

To emphasise his point, and maintain the thought that the EU is out there somewhere and coming to get us all, Hannan tells that “At the 1992 Barcelona Games, the European Commission demanded the creation of a united team that would compete in a blue-and-gold strip, mount the podium to the strains of Beethoven’s Ninth and tot up a European tally on the medals table”.

Strangely, this event has not entered the history books, and unless Dan can provide a reliable citation for his claim, it will have to be consigned to the dustbin of Hannan whoppers along with his claims on Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse) that Barack Obama’s health care reform was “a Government takeover of health care” and would lead to “death panels”.

So much of the rest of Hannan’s exposition falls with his unproven assertion. There isn’t any move to have a single EU team at the Olympics, and the only reason for showing how many medals the member states rack up between them is to show how the EU compares to other large populations – in other words, rather well, and without any need to scrap the teams of individual nation states.

But this talk of national teams merely emphasises how Hannan is using the Olympics to bang his particular drum: not all sports have national teams, and not all teams defined by territory cover just one country. Team GB includes Scotland and Wales, but those countries compete individually at football and also in the Commonwealth Games. And then there is the sport Dan forgot.

That would be Golf. Most of the time, it’s an individuals’ sport. But when it comes to match play – such as foursomes and four-balls – things change. And so does the participation of European nations. After World War 2, US dominance of the biennial Ryder Cup was such that the Great Britain and Ireland team (note that two nations were already involved) was changed to a European one in 1979.

The European Ryder Cup team, and that of the corresponding event for women, the Solheim Cup, play under the EU flag, although not all players in the latter are from EU member states. Despite Hannan’s insistence, rather a lot of people cheer for “Team Europe”, especially as they won four out of the last five tournaments. So he won’t be mentioning golf in his Euro-rants any time soon.

Not that he’s being selective with the facts, of course. Perish the thought, eh Dan?

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