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Irish row threatens the London Olympic bid

This, a report from the London Evening Standard, is going to make David Carr very happy:

London’s rivals for the 2012 Olympics have already started exploiting a row between British and Irish officials over Northern Ireland which could seriously damage the bid, Standard Sport can reveal today.

The row has become so inflamed that Ireland’s International Olympic Committee member Patrick Hickey, one of the leading figures in European sport, has said the British Olympic Association, who organise this summer’s team for Athens, could look like “clowns”.

The Olympic Council of Ireland, who say they have traditionally had jurisdiction over the area, is angry that the BOA have suddenly decided to add the words “Northern Ireland” to their team contracts for the Athens Olympics.

But what is so clownish about that? This story explains the situation rather better:

Hickey said, “they would have to withdraw those letters in the team agreement where they have added Northern Ireland. Otherwise they will look completely foolish when we turn up in Athens with seven to 10 members of our team from Northern Ireland and nobody from Northern Ireland on the British team. They would look like clowns”.

Yes, that would be clownish all right. But there is more involved than that. The Irish suspect that the British use of the words “Northern Ireland” in those team contracts could be a sign of action to come, at some time in the future. Back to the Standard:

The BOA strongly deny they have attempted to change anything and played down the dispute. The Irish see the move as a threat to the future of all-Ireland sports teams. …

Odd, those “all-Ireland” sports teams. The only game I know about in this connection is Rugby Union. (Irish people do not concern themselves with cricket very much.) And yes, next Saturday, the opening match of the Six Nations Rugby Union championship will be France v. Ireland, at the Stade de France in Paris. Ireland as in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, with two different Irish national anthems if I am not mistaken. No doubt this arrangement was arrived at during an era when sport and politics inhabited different universes, and the politicians regarded what the sportsmen did as entirely the business of the sportsmen. Also, in former times, whatever arrangements the British made with their neighbours were no-one else’s business. Now, sport is big business and big politics, and Britain is just one beast in the global sporting pack. Now, the mere wording of a team contract can take on a huge international significance:

Hickey revealed today that several bidding cities, keen to take advantage of London’s problems, had already contacted him since this newspaper broke the story about the dispute last week.

My guess is it was one of David’s lawyer friends (all lawyers know all other lawyers – this is a well known fact) who wrote those contracts, in a deliberately provocative manner, and then rang up all the competing cities to tell them about this row. After all, if enough people say there is a row, there is!

So David’s No Olympics for London campaign is getting nicely into gear, and I congratulate him on progress so far.

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12 comments to Irish row threatens the London Olympic bid

  • There actually is an Ireland cricket team. It is like the Ireland rugby team in that it represents both the republic and the north. Until a small number of years ago (ie less than a decade ago) all of Ireland (and also Scotland) was part of England for cricketing purposes. This meant that if you were Irish, you were eligible to be selected for the English national team. This is no longer so, as both Ireland and Scotland are now associate members of the ICC (International Cricket Council) and have their own national teams. This is a relatively new development.

    All that said, one of the charming things about sport in the British isles is that “countries” for sporting purposes bear very little resemblence to “countries” for political purposes. This is because the British invented all the important sports and also invented the idea of international sporting contests. (The first international football match was England v Scotland for instance).

  • Muwahahahahahahahahahahahahahah………..

  • Ted Schuerzinger

    Michael Jennings wrote:

    This is because the British invented all the important sports and also invented the idea of international sporting contests.

    Basketball might be the second most popular sport worldwide after (association) football, and it was invented in the US.

    Also, everybody knows real hockey is played on ice and was invented by the Canadians. Just because Brits suck at a sport doesn’t mean it’s an unimportant sport.

    As for the Olympics, I doubt this row will affect London’s bid. After all, the IOC have awarded the 2008 games to Chinese Peking despite the fact that the Chinese Peking national OC have bullied the IOC into barring the Republic of China on Taiwan from using their real name, flag, or anthem.

  • ade

    An interesting reminder of the time when the UK ruled the world of sport (or it’s administration at least) is the fact the the laws of Association Football are not made, as is commonly assumed, by FIFA, but by a body called the International Board, which consists of four FIFA delegates, and one each from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. A fact worth remembering when one hears BBC comentators excoriating FIFA for “what they’ve done to our game”.

  • Greg

    Basketball might be the second most popular sport worldwide after (association) football, and it was invented in the US.

    You are mistaken. A plucky Canadian invented basketball as well. (Link)

  • Ted Schuerzinger


    Re-read my comments. I know Naismith was Canadian; I specifically said that basketball was invented in the US. I didn’t say anything about the nationality of the inventor.

    Of course, this is just one more example of a Canadian having to leave Canada to become a success story. :-p

  • Greg

    And so the hair is split! I concede the point.

  • Andrew Duffin

    Ted Schuerzinger: “…everybody knows real hockey is played on ice…”

    You took the very words out of my mouth!

  • Richard Thomas

    Hah. Basketball is just netball with a piece of wood stuck behind the net to make it easier :p


  • Antoine Clarke

    Rugby in Ireland and the Olympic Games simply pre-date the independence of the southern bit of the island. No one has got round to explaining to the Irish RFU that there’s a border since 1922.

    In soccer there are two Irish FAs: one in Belfast and one in Dublin. Some Northern Irish soccer teams play in the South (I think Derry City is one of them) the rest play among themselves.

    One possible problem for the British government, which is normally only too happy to encourage united Irish events as part of softening up the Northern Irish for their eventual ethnic cleansing by the IRA is the National Lottery.

    I don’t think a

    good cause

    as defined by the National Lottery grants people can offer cash to a sports body outside the UK (Ireland), or refuse it to the Northern Irish.

    It is the usual mess caused by refusing to decide whether Northern Ireland is ‘in’ or ‘out’ of the UK and accept the responsibility that comes with either decision. Personally, I think NI should secede.

  • February 13, 2004: The Dreary Steeplechases of Fermanagh and Tyrone:

    Micklethwait might be mistaken about how far back the era when sport and politics inhabited different universes goes. Indeed, he misunderestimates the
    integrity of the ancient quarrel.

  • J Manning

    Ok so it’s slightly ridiculous weighing in on this argument four years later but I’m sure people will find this page by accident like I did today. I have to correct the factual inaccuaracies in a number of the posts here including the original article. Soccer is the ONLY sport where there is a ‘Republic of Ireland’ team – for historical reasons there are two football associations on the island. In ALL other sports there are all-ireland teams – rugby, cricket, hockey, boxing, swimming, etc. etc. Now you know.