Pete Barrow: Even the national anthem cannot provide the answers

THE OLYMPICS are just around the corner with the spotlight firmly on track and field medals so what would be the biggest boost for our athletes – a media witchhunt as to who is a ‘Plastic Brit’.

THE OLYMPICS are just around the corner with the spotlight firmly on track and field medals so what would be the biggest boost for our athletes – a media witchhunt as to who is a ‘Plastic Brit’.

On becoming captain of the Great Britain team for the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul Tiffany Porter was treated to being asked if she knew the words to ‘God Save The Queen’ at a press conference.

Hopefully the reporter who decided such a cheap shot was worth it is now eating humble pie as Porter led Team GB to a nine-medal haul in the championships in Istanbul.

And this is an athlete who cannot hide the fact that she was born in Ypsilanti, Michigan in the United States, but who can point to the fact that her mother Lillian is English.

While I would not wish a nationality-based assault on anyone, it was perhaps most fitting that if mild xenophobia is going to be bandied about it is best involving someone like Porter whose background provides the perfect example of why questions over nationality are so frequently problematical, if not entirely redundant.

There are so many factors which can be brought into the argument as to whether an athlete should represent England or Great Britain.

Family links with the British Isles or choosing to be resident in Britain seem to crop up as the most popular criteria for those wanting to make a judgement.

But in many ways it is the curious methodology used by certain parts of our national media as to who should be harried which would seem to be more ripe for questioning.

To put it simply, why question the commitment of Porter or Yamilé Aldama, whose two children were born in Britain, yet not sling the same sort of rubbish at Mo Farah?

And all this when the issue of nationality would seem to be much less of a problem in other sports.

Both codes of rugby appear to have a very liberal approach to qualification to play for a national side and as for cricket – well where do you start?

On losing a recent Ashes series there was a joke in Aussie circles that they had tried to put a spy in the England camp, but had learned nothing due to their interloper being unable to speak Afrikaans.

Essentially the real issue lies as to where to draw the line as to nationality and qualification.

The fact is that rules and regulations are already drawn up and those representing our sporting sides will have had to have qualified in some way, shape or form already – and probably having to show great degrees of patience to do so.

This also means the type of person who wants to ask the ‘God Save The Queen’ question is hinting that their real agenda is to tighten up how qualification to be British is decided.

But that merely opens up more dilemmas and conundrums, especially if you consider the essence of the specific question that was fired at Porter.

Contemplate a scenario where an athlete is Britain’s best at their event and a tied-on world champion.

Let’s say they were born in Coventry from an unbroken line of pure bred Midlanders but didn’t know the words to ‘God Save The Queen’ because they were brought up in a family of anti-monarchists?

So not even the national anthem is a valid measure!

 
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