Olympic medals and Brexit

Fewer UK medals at the Olympics was one of the small number of  bad forecasts Remain did not get round to making in the event of a Brexit vote. That was a good thing for them, as UK athletes are excelling themselves in Rio.  Nor did the  Leave campaign  claim there would  be more medals once we voted to be an independent country again, as that would be to politicise sports in an unattractive and misleading  way. We all send our congratulations to our Olympic competitors who are achieving so much thanks to their own great efforts.

It is nonetheless interesting that the top three  countries in the medals table alongside the UK in second place are all independent countries, not members of the EU.  France, Germany and Italy, the best placed EU countries, look unlikely to get into the top three.

You could argue that medals in the Olympics and membership of the EU are unconnected, so why raise the issue at all?  I do so, because it does pose an interesting dilemma for the increasingly centralised state of Euroland. Fostering a sense of national pride in the achievements of fellow countrymen and women, within the context of the brotherhood and sisterhood of world sport, is an important part of the Olympic spirit and attraction. One of the main interests in  the Olympics is the Medals table, which is deliberately constructed around national identity. Olympic athletes returning with medals are feted as national heroes.  The pro Europeans, ever keen to promote an overriding sense of European identity around the 12 stars flag, have to watch as France and Germany, Italy and Spain revert to their national symbols and colours.

The Olympics also poses a problem for EU ideas of collaboration.  Global sport proceeds by intense competition. Each individual and each national team is out to beat their rivals. Secrets are developed and preserved to gain an edge, not generally  shared with other competitors. Excellence is reached by supreme individual effort, backed up by strong national training, funding and general support. The results are stunning, with regular improvements in what men and women can achieve. World records are smashed and  the human frame pressed to yet finer and faster attainment. This is all very different language to the language of the Commission based on solidarity, mutual support and exchange.




  1. Mark B
    August 16, 2016

    Good morning.

    Not interested in the ‘Bread and Circus’ of the modern Olympics, but well done to all our athletes whether they won or not.

    I would imagine the EU, like to UK (football and rugby), will allow national teams to participate under their national flags, anthems and identities. Politically, economically and democratically though, they will be hollowed out nations.

    So the sooner we are out, the better.

    What chance an EU Games, much like the Commonwealth Games in decades to come ?


  2. Anonymous
    August 16, 2016


    If I were to sum up the EU in a word.

    A lot of old white men sitting around a forum sending out edicts whilst claiming massive expenses and building huge pension pots.

    Why would any young person want to drape themselves in the EU flag, paint their faces blue and yellow and protest in defense of that ?

    1. Ed Mahony
      August 16, 2016

      ‘Why would any young person want to drape themselves in the EU flag’
      – my first girlfriend was Spanish. I’ll never forget that amazing summer I had in Seville. Also had an amazing year working in Madrid.
      – two of my closest best friends are from the EU. One Dutch, the other French. I love going to Amsterdam, in particular. And go often.
      – I worked with Germans for a few years. Some of the best people ever worked with. Also love, Bach, Handel, Mozart and visiting Salzburg and Berlin.
      I also really like the Norweigans, having lived with one and hung out with some for a year.
      – One of my best friends lives in Prauge. Prague is an amazing place. Visit there often.
      – Spent 6 weeks travelling around Italy. Rome is fantastic.
      – Also spent some amazing times in Ireland. Irelands’ great.
      Europe is great. People. Places. And culture.
      The United Kingdom is the best place in Europe, though. And the British, the best. I love this country. But that doesn’t mean I can’t love Europe either or that it takes away from the love for my own country. It only adds to it.
      And for all the faults of the EU (above all immigration which needs restricting), it’s achieved a lot of positive things as well for the United Kingdom and for Europe overall.

      Reply Many of us like Europe but dislike the EIU. They are very different things.

      1. Edward2
        August 16, 2016

        In my visits to European nations like France Spain Italy Germany and France I find them far more patriotic enthusiasts for their country than we are.

      2. Anonymous
        August 16, 2016

        Your answer explains a lot about why young people might want to drape themselves in the EU flag, Mr Mahony.

        All but your last paragraph explains a lot about the confusion with regard to the European Union and Europe. Two very different things indeed.

        Frankly I think wearing the EU flag is utterly idiotic – for the reasons I mention earlier… it being the motif for a band of (largely) older white men grubbing money and power.

      3. Bob
        August 16, 2016

        @Ed Mahony
        You made the classic mistake of conflating Europe with the EU.
        Europe is a geographical region.
        The EU is a lot of old white men sitting around a forum sending out edicts whilst claiming massive expenses and building huge pension pots.

        And guess what, there are a lot of really interesting people/cultures outside of the EU and you don’t need to be in a political union to be friends with them.

        1. Ed Mahony
          August 17, 2016

          ‘Europe is a geographical region’
          – exactly. Which is why we need to play geopolitics. Geopolitics is about working closely with your nearest geographical neighbours for the benefit of prosperity and peace. The more we trade with Europe (and it with us), the more we build up Europe, in terms of prosperity. And peace is closely connected to prosperity.
          Contributing to the EU just speeds up the process of building up Europe economically. The UK contributed, through the EU, to the build of Ireland, from relatively poor country to wealthy country now and one of our main trading partners. With prosperity in Ireland helping to remove the gun from N. Irish politics. And much of Eastern Europe is now more prosperous and stable, and freed from dreaded Communism. There are still big problems. But it takes time. And there always will be problems as we live in an imperfect world.
          But it makes total sense to be close to Europe also because one of golden rules of economics is that you trade with your nearest neighbours for some/much of your products and services (the ones that are harder to sell and transport further a field – often your least competitive products and services). (And it’s much easier for most UK businessman to trade with say the Dutch or the Germans than say the Japanese- language can be a problem, but more than that, culture, as well as the cost of flying out to Japan and shipping goods there – this is just one of the very ordinary, everyday realities of business that many overlook).

          ‘And guess what, there are a lot of really interesting people/cultures outside of the EU and you don’t need to be in a political union to be friends with them’ – It doesn’t logically follow that because I love my country and Europe that I hate the rest of the world. I particularly love Vietnam and the US. Europe is about geopolitics. We haven’t been at war with Vietnam. And building up Vietnam isn’t going to benefit us as much as building up Poland or some other country in Europe, through close trade and other links.

          1. Ed Mahony
            August 17, 2016

            ‘And guess what, there are a lot of really interesting people/cultures outside of the EU and you don’t need to be in a political union to be friends with them’
            – Also, just as Germany, France and others in the EU want to be nice to us for geopolitical reasons, geopolitics with us is way down the list for countries such as China and Japan. In other words, they are going to be more ruthless in their trade negotiations with us than the EU (although now the EU is going to be harsher with us to send a signal to the rest of the EU that if you leave, then you’re going to find it harder on the outside than the inside – and the Conservative Norwegian PM has been very loud about this saying the UK won’t like being outside the EU, and hate being outside the single market) . Of course the rest of the world wants trade agreements with us, but only because they want access to our markets. Meanwhile they are going to try their hardest to prevent us from accessing theirs. Because bad trade agreements cost jobs (Donald Trump – and he’s quite right).
            GEOPOLITICS seems to be totally absent from the vocabulary of Brexiteers, focusing instead on things from a very narrow trade perspective, and ignoring the harsh realities of trading with people further afield with many products difficult to sell and trade there, as well as the harsh realities of trade agreements.

  3. Lifelogic
    August 16, 2016

    Those who oppose selective schools for the more academically able, would I assumes also oppose elitist training for athletics and sportspeople using their similar warped logic. Owen smith’s absurd “equality of outcome” agenda. How would he get “equality of outcome” in the Olympics I wonder?

    I am no great fan of professional sport in general, but it is nice to see a bit of fencing and table tennis sport I was reasonable at in my youth on television for a change. Why only once every four years?

    On your broader point I agree the idea of teamEU would be absurd. The EU is not a demos on which real democracy or national identity could ever sit.

    1. Lifelogic
      August 16, 2016

      The EU is a anti-democratic, to down, political construct. Forced on to the people largely against their collective will. It is not a natural bottom up evolution of identity. Every time I see the EU flag, the many “funded by the EU” signs or hear the last movement of Beethoven ‘s ninth I dislike the EU even more. Hopefully these will all disappear soon. I know that many people in France, Germany, Italy and the other countries feel the same.

    2. Anonymous
      August 16, 2016

      “Those who oppose selective schools for the more academically able”

      Actually they don’t oppose it for the more academically able. They oppose it for working class kids whilst getting their own into selective schools by means of buying in expensive areas or feigning religious tendencies. Some even buy private education whilst purporting to oppose it.

  4. Lifelogic
    August 16, 2016

    Team GB has done remarkably well with more than half the medals of the USA (which has five times the population and is richer per head too). Then again Australia has done even better still. With more than 50% of the UK’s tally from only about 1/3 of the UK population.

  5. Christopher Hudson
    August 16, 2016

    Britain is set to be in with a chance of 6 gold medals on what’s now being called Super Tuesday. It looks as though we could beat the Chinese by a wide margin. China, a country of 1.6 billion people. When it comes to looking to where to invest their money, make no mistake, the Olympic medal table, for them, the Chinese, is very very important.

  6. Denis Cooper
    August 16, 2016

    I’m not going to bother totting up the medals won by the EU member states collectively because I confidently expect some Remoaner will do that in due course. Then we will be told that instead of leaving the EU we should stay in and work with our European partners to improve the overall total, and (sotto voce) outstrip the USA. That could involve the EU Commission running complex schemes under which member states with better than average performance show EU solidarity by transferring some of their medals to poorly performing member states. One of the former will then complain that its contribution is too high (“I want my medals back!”) and so the system will be refined by the introduction of rebates, prompting complaints from some net recipients of medals that they are now having to give medals to the better performers. The Commission will also be permitted to make advance allocations of medals for the next Olympics, and then any member state which decides to leave the EU will be told to immediately produce its share of the medals which have been promised to other member states. By now nobody outside the EU corridors of power can possibly understand how this all works, not even politicians who have been elected as national ministers, but that’s OK because the more complex the system the easier it becomes to mock the ignorance of any critics.

    1. John
      August 16, 2016

      No Remainer will do a table because no one cares as the EU are not competing. I know how much that will distress you.
      Please show me where Remain have advocated the end of national sport

      1. Denis Cooper
        August 16, 2016

        I think it’s inevitable that one of your kind will do it, but we’ll see.

  7. alan jutson
    August 16, 2016

    I remember well the policies of political correctness of decades past where competitive sport was deemed unfair on those who were not so good at it.
    Indeed we had competitive school sports days withdrawn from many schools, because those who would not win may become upset at their failure, thus school playing fields were sold off and competition frowned upon.
    In academia Grammar schools were thought to be divisive, and so were closed in favour of the new all inclusive comprehensive’s, GCSE”S were introduced so everyone could get a grade in something to replace a pass or a fail.

    The start of the real socialist dream was alive and spreading fast, pupils never had a failed experience, indeed for many the first failure in their lives was a driving test, thank goodness we did not dumb down that !
    Then perhaps for some it was redundancy, which hits hard whenever it comes but even harder when you have never before experienced bad news before.

    Yes sport is a prime example of fantastic individual or indeed team performance, but unfortunately even this can be tainted by drugs cheats, and the institutionalised training methods used by some Countries for political prowess.

    Let us face facts, we have recently done brilliantly for a Country of our size, but only really since ever increasing lottery funding has supported those who have been devoted in their task, who perhaps could not have trained so well or for so long without such financial support.

    Never the less a brilliant effort by Team GB, nice to see our flag flying, and our National anthem being played.

    Its a very competitive World either in sport or business, we should be proud of success.

  8. Denis Cooper
    August 16, 2016

    Incidentally I distinctly remember the Irish being urged to vote for the Lisbon Treaty because it made sport an EU competence.


    “With the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon in December 2009, the European Union (EU) acquired, for the first time, a specific competence in the field of sport. Article 165 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) sets out the details of EU sports policy. Moreover, sport is mentioned in Article 6 TFEU as one of the policy fields where the Union has competence to support, coordinate or supplement the actions of its Member States.”

    But I don’t know whether this has actually done the sporting Irish any good.

  9. DaveM
    August 16, 2016

    It’s strange how German colours no longer seem to have the aura they used to have.

    In London I saw literally hundreds of thousands of people who just wanted to be at the Olympics and support GB. When a GB athlete won a medal it was announced everywhere and the cheers were deafening. In this Olympics even the BBC are announcing medals as if they are breaking news of the highest import.

    The support for national sides manifests itself in its finest form (in my opinion) at the Six Nations and cricket – intense support, friendly rivalry, and national pride. Jean Claude Juncker must hate it every time there’s a big sporting tournament and fans sing their national anthems.

    It would be good to see some Royal recognition for Fiji’s Sevens players as well. The people of that tiny country have shown nothing but loyalty and bravery to the UK and deserve some form of recognition – their first ever medal win would be a perfect opportunity to do so, don’t you think?

    1. Ed Mahony
      August 16, 2016

      ‘It’s strange how German colours no longer seem to have the aura they used to have’

      – Good thing, too. 75 years ago, German colours were everywhere – loud and proud. One of the reasons why Winston Churchill called for closer integration within Europe. Good old Churchill (if only Brexiteers would listen to you today, and if only Brexiteers listened to the economic experts as well as political experts regarding the importance of geopolitics).

      1. DaveM
        August 16, 2016

        I’m talking about the last couple of decades of the 20th century when a german athlete appearing in an event meant a medal for Germany. Nowadays finishing above Germany is fully expected. Except in football of course. And, erm, handball.

      2. Denis Cooper
        August 16, 2016

        Churchill didn’t have a vote on June 23rd. A majority of those who did have votes, and took the trouble to use them, voted to leave the EU. Therefore we should leave the EU, as we were promised before the vote took place; your tired old arguments for staying in are bootless, and attempts to overturn the verdict of the people and keep us in are frankly disgusting.

      3. Tom William
        August 16, 2016

        What he actually said was:
        As Prime Minister in 1953 he told the Commons: “Where do we stand? We are not members of the European Defence Community, nor do we intend to be merged in a Federal European system. We feel we have a special relation to both. This can be expressed by prepositions, by the preposition ‘with’ but not ‘of’ – we are with them, but not of them. We have our own Commonwealth and Empire.”

        More or less what most Brexiteers believe.

        1. sjb
          August 17, 2016

          That was before Suez, Tom. Churchill supported Macmillan’s application to join the EEC: see http://johnredwoodsdiary.com/2014/08/19/the-bbc-and-professor-bogdanor-misrepresent-churchill-for-the-sake-of-the-eu/#comment-629151

        2. Ian
          August 18, 2016

          Tom – you’re talking about 1953; 63 years ago in the last century. Perhaps you haven’t noticed that the world has changed. We certainly don’t have an Empire anymore and don’t have the Commonwealth that Churchill spoke of. I don’t think the prepositions matter.

  10. Denis Cooper
    August 16, 2016

    Also incidentally, I recall our last Prime Minister talking about the Olympics:


    “Think forward to the Olympics: Usain Bolt powers home in the 100m, when it comes to handing out the gold medal they give it to the person who came third. We wouldn’t do it in the Olympics, we shouldn’t do it in politics. We’ve got to vote no to this crazy system.”

    But what I don’t understand is that Usain Bolt has just come First Past The Post in that race, again, and he was given a gold medal, again, but two other runners were also given medals. It seems a crazy system when losers can be rewarded like that.

    1. Mark B
      August 16, 2016

      They should make them run it again and again, until they got they right winner.


    2. hefner
      August 16, 2016

      Are you serious or have you got just a little bit too much sun on your head?

      1. Denis Cooper
        August 16, 2016

        Well, did Cameron think that was a serious argument against AV?

  11. eeyore
    August 16, 2016

    Assuming we care about Olympic medals (only a minority do) shouldn’t we thank Sir John Major? He set up the National Lottery which has paid for them – £32m for rowing alone. Invested at 5% that sum would have produced £1.5m pa for ever.

    Readers may be intrigued to know that the longest-standing Olympic record was set by one Bybon son of Phola in the early c6BC. He lifted or threw a 316lb stone (the wording on it is not clear) over his head with one hand. I believe no one has managed the feat since. I saw the very stone, with its inscription and carved handgrip, in the museum at Olympia in Greece.

    1. DaveM
      August 16, 2016

      I do that a few times every morning just to keep on my toes. ?

    2. Richard1
      August 16, 2016

      Yes John Major should get more credit than he does for a number of things. Our host was quite correct to say ‘no change no chance’ and recommend chucking our Major in 1995, but is now quite unfair to blame him alone for joining the ERM, when Mrs Thatcher was PM at the time we did, and for not vetoing EMU at the Maastricht treaty (as opposed just to obtaining a UK opt-out) , an action which would not have commanded public support at the time given it was wanted by all other EU governments.

    3. Anonymous
      August 16, 2016

      I think signing Maastricht is beyond forgiveable. Baubles don’t make up for it.

  12. Edward.
    August 16, 2016

    I was much cheered by Andy Murray’s marvellous efforts and win in Brazil, I have always thought that, Britain; its constituent nations are stronger forged in unity. Therefore, one must be considered, if not slightly wary of drawing too hard a direct comparison [Olympic medals table] with other ‘single states’ within the failing Empire.

    Last time around in London, there was talk here in the UK and some French/German EUphiliacs always so keen to promote the….. as yet very seldom seen, a very reluctant sensation of unity and EU brotherhood. Ephemeral indeed, alluding to a ‘combined EU medals’ haul which would have placed the EU collectively at the head of the medals table – and altogether specious idea that it was.

    The Olympic games trades on, relies on national identities and thus nationalist fervour is encouraged by participating countries and cheered on by national media coverage and exhorting fierce loyalty to their own brand through national teams. It always strikes me as deeply ironic, is not the BBC a loud and raucous champion of the NWO and advocates Internationalism over anything to do with pinched, swivel eyed patriotism, yet when the Olympics comes around, down at Broadcasting house it’s swivelling for Britain and get out the Union Jack and bunting time!

    Lastly, a takeover unwarranted and unwanted.

    During, the most recent gatherings [last 30 odd years or so] of the Ryder Cup Golf competition, I abhor the implication pushed by the big giants – corporates not least by Sky broadcasting and further, ever over enthusiastically pursued by the Brussels Empire. In that, this famous meeting of contestants is about a sporting event where the EU ie European members of le grand project are versus the USA.
    Once more Brussels rewrites its own history and totally ignoring the fact that, it [the Ryder Cup] was originally a biennial test solely between the golfers of Great Britain against the US and a format, something imho I would very much like to see returned to, victories would be far, far rarer but endlessly, enormously more satisfying!

    After all, we are now out, are we not?

  13. Ian Wragg
    August 16, 2016

    We all perform better when we have competition from like minded people.
    This is a traight hated by the liberal left who believe in all should have prizes and no one should be left behind.
    This is counter intuitive as from the beginning of time we have striped to better ourselves.
    The EU stifles competition and creativity with its one size fits all mentality.
    The old Soviet Union tried to demonstrate its superiority in sport but this was achieved only by cheating on an industrial scale.
    The EU uses lying and cheating to further its aims but the sheeple are waking up at last.

  14. Peter VAN LEEUWEN
    August 16, 2016

    The Blog writer obviously believes that there was no EU in 2004, 2000, or 1996, with “team GB” far below his European competitors (see wikipedia).
    Nationalistic feelings have already become too important in Russia, so I would not stir them up too much in British sport. Too intensive competition takes the sport out of sport. I prefer the overriding Olympic sense of brotherhood and sisterhood. Medal tables just pit large countries against small countries, and yes, you are outperforming Malta, well done!

    Why not look at competitiveness in the real world, with Germany exporting three and a half times as much too your most favoured China than you do and Tata Steel investing hundreds of millions in the Netherlands in favour of Brexit Wales?

    1. Anonymous
      August 16, 2016

      Had the results been bad it would have been blamed on Brexit.

    2. ian wragg
      August 16, 2016

      Welcome back peter, are you freelance now as the department of propaganda in Brussels is unmanned.
      How do you think the Italian referendum will go and I see your countrymen are pushing for a vote.
      It’s time someone put the EU and the Euro out of its misery.

      1. Peter VAN LEEUWEN
        August 16, 2016

        @ian wragg: Still the same old pensioner with no liaison with EU whatsoever. I cannot predict the Italian referendum, but there won’t be one in the Netherlands. You may keep hoping in vain that the EU and/or euro will unravel, why should I rob you from your innermost desires? 🙂

    3. Anonymous
      August 16, 2016

      The EU has done plenty to stoke nationalism in Russia.

  15. agricola
    August 16, 2016

    Well, if the EU Commission achieve their desire of a USEu, they might collectively do quite well. Nine potential members of such an USEu have 104 medals between them including 38 Golds. Yes I know the population base would be greater, but this only goes to emphasise the brilliant effort of Team GB.

    We should congratulate any competitor who wins Gold, Silver , or Bronze, and not leap to make political capital out of it. That was the privilege of Nazi Germany in 1936 and the drug addled Soviet Bloc in many games up to Rio. In the latter case I feel sure the competitors did not have much option but to be part of the drug programme, unlike modern day professional cycling where it is a matter of choice.

  16. Denis Cooper
    August 16, 2016

    For God’s sake, is there nobody who can sort out the Telegraph’s political editors over this elementary misunderstanding?


    “The money to continue subsidising farmers and universities will come from Britain’s £8.5 billion net contribution to the EU, which it will cease to pay upon its exit from the EU.”

    Are they really this stupid?

    1. ian wragg
      August 16, 2016

      No, but they think we are.

  17. Know-dice
    August 16, 2016

    Who is calling us “Little Englanders” now? 👿

    As a national confidence booster the Olympics shows what we are capable of if we put our minds to it 🙂

  18. brian
    August 16, 2016

    It is amazing how Brexiteers constantly try to justify their decision based not only on the supposed “wrong” forecasts but now on forecasts that were not made!

  19. David Lister
    August 16, 2016

    It’s also interesting that team GB (actually GB and Northern Ireland) is the most successful EU team and comprises of a Union of 4 nations collaborating together. Strip off the individual contributions of each UK member and the medal count would be much diminished. It’s therefore just as much an example of how collaboration works!

    August 16, 2016

    There were concerns raised by the Remainers that the 2016 UEFA European Championship 10 June to 10 July 2016 straddling the June 23rd Referendum could affect the Remain vote to the downside.
    Obviously they breathed a sigh of relief, raised a glass and laughed at our country and our people when we were defeated and humiliated in France with tens of millions throughout the world watching.

    When the Remainers were stamped into the dust of history on 23rd June, some leading Remainers and journalists stated that the Olympic British successes as far back as 2012 “probably influenced” British people to vote to leave the EU…that “it made them feel patriotic”

    Very few people in past General Elections actually believed the taunt or jibe by those opposing the Labour Party that it was somehow anti-British and betrayed our country. Yes there were incidents of Labour Councils removing the Union flag and the red and white Saint George England flag from Town Halls so as “not to offend ethnic minorities who might see it as racist” and indeed one or two Labour politicians saying that flying our national flag is “a racist act.”
    But few until now realise the Labour Party and the United Kingdom are mutually exclusive. They have shown their true colours, which are not those of the UK, nor the singular hues of Ulster, Wales, Scotland nor England. But a muddy rotten foreign red.

    1. John
      August 16, 2016

      Stamped into the dust? Even Farage says it is unfinished business and says 52-48 should result in a 2nd referendum.

      1. C H I NGOLDBY
        August 18, 2016

        And you think that we should do what Mr Farage says? (even if that means distorting what he says for your own benefit). You’re a hypocrite.

  21. Antisthenes
    August 16, 2016

    In theory borders and sovereignty are incompatible with liberty and I subscribe to that theory although I voted for the UK to take both back. I voted that way because the theory can only work in practice under ideal conditions and those conditions are far from met. Keeping sovereignty and borders gives people an identity, an area which they feel safe in as strangers who mean them harm are more easily recognised and which cooperating together has evolved over many centuries so works adequately (although sometimes not without it’s difficulties even now).

    The EU means opening up those borders and losing sovereignty to people who we are not yet familiar and we do not yet fully empathise with. To change this particular theory into practice cannot be done by coercion but by persuasion and it must evolve incrementally with ever increasing cooperation when it is of mutual benefit in which we have already started the process (in some area to much too quickly because of the EU’s ambitions).

  22. acorn
    August 16, 2016

    The “UK” does not compete in the Olympics, Great Britain (and Northern Ireland) form Team GB.

    We have got used to you blaming the EU, every time someone chips a finger nail. Alas, it does make a refreshing change to the Americans blaming Putin and the Russians for everything. There is currently no aspect of life on this planet that the Americans have not “weaponised”, including sport, against Russia. In fact, against any sovereign state, that has some resource the American perpetual war machine must totally monopolise by regime change and installing a puppet government.

  23. flypast
    August 16, 2016

    Good post.
    To me though, the only question is
    Should there be one world government or individual countries as now.
    Same thing as referendum, many side pros and cons but the only question ( for me ) was
    Did we want a one continent government or individual sovereign countries.

    1. DaveM
      August 16, 2016

      The point is, surely, that if we felt any sense of comradeship and shared nationality with European nations we would celebrate their medals as fervently. Rather than wishing Cavendish had beaten the Italian!

      1. DaveM
        August 16, 2016

        Apologies, that reply was to Matthu’s comment about 5 further down.

  24. Ed Mahony
    August 16, 2016

    ‘It is nonetheless interesting that the top three countries in the medals table alongside the UK in second place are all independent countries, not members of the EU’ – The UK came third in the London Olympics and Russia came fourth.

    ‘You could argue that medals in the Olympics and membership of the EU are unconnected’ Surely the current medals results has ZERO to do with the EU …

    ‘The pro Europeans, ever keen to promote an overriding sense of European identity around the 12 stars flag, have to watch as France and Germany, Italy and Spain revert to their national symbols and colours.’ – I really think 99.99% of ‘pro Europeans’ couldn’t give a monkeys about the ‘European identity’ when it comes to the Olympic Games. Just as most people couldn’t give a monkeys about the ‘European identity’ when it comes to their favourite football team. But they do care about the EU when it comes to things such as peace, prosperity, and security.

    1. Mitchel
      August 16, 2016

      As the EU’s actions (and sometimes lack of action)have demonstrably damaged “things such as peace,prosperity and security”,it’s hardly surprising people are looking increasingly to their national governments or,indeed,to their own devices.

    2. Tom William
      August 16, 2016


  25. Bert Young
    August 16, 2016

    Should we call ourselves “Team UK” ? ; the question of identity is a matter of pride so it is important to get the title right in the first place . Of course the EU has its lower decoletage in a twist as far as identity is concerned – who can blame them ? . I had a problem in 1952 when asked to be the swimming coach of a country I was living in at the time without having its citizenship – the problem was overcome by calling me “Co-coach”. I still felt great pride in being involved in an event that brought most of the nations of the world together in harmony .

    I admire very much the achievements of all the international sports-people ; the levels of their success today are incredible . The one dilemma I do have is the mixing up of full time professionals with “amateurs” ; there is a thin dividing line between the two categories since they both seem to be able to spend all their time concentrating on their activity (mostly due to sponsorship). Equally I abhor the use of drugs to enhance performance ; the policing and discipline now required is important .

    At a University level I have witnessed the decline of interest and support at the expense of professionalism – Rugby for example . Obtaining outside financial interest today is very difficult to find and it accounts for the present day fall in standard compared to what it was in the 60s and 70s . This is a matter that should be looked at by the various bodies in control and assistance brought in to level things out again .

    Nevertheless the overall results show that training and excellence do pay off ; we onlookers can only be dumb-struck by what is achieved today.

  26. rick hamilton
    August 16, 2016

    Of course people want to support the home team. It`s normal and it`s why we have countries to start with. There are no EU flags to be seen in Rio, nor should there be.

    This effort to drive out patriotism and pride in their own traditions and culture by the EU will fail in the end. As will the FT/ Economist mantra of `it doesn`t matter who owns what`.

  27. Anthony Makara
    August 16, 2016

    Sadly the UK today has become the domain of the passive beta male, where facial cream and internationalist liberal values should be applied daily. Assertiveness and Competition are seen as Patriarchy unless carried out under a sanitized format like the Olympic Games. National pride is then allowed to exist for the photoshoots but never allowed to develop into anything that can be applied at home in business or daily life. The individual is the driving force in society but he/she is still part of something greater, part of the Nation. We must rebuild a National Consciousness in our country, that should start in Primary School and be thread running though all levels of education. To deny National Pride is to deny our very existence. Now we are leaving the EU let’s become a Nation again.

    1. Peter Stroud
      August 16, 2016

      Absolutely right. I am very old and can remember, as a very young schoolboy, celebrating Empire Day. Of course the union flag took pride of place. Obviously we can no longer celebrate our empire, but we might make something more of Commonwealth Day. And we might see more people imitating our American friends, and flying the union flag on designated days, and St Georg’s flag every other day.

      1. Anthony Makara
        August 16, 2016

        We can see the change reflected in BBC World Service, which went from promoting Britain with the cultured tones of home born announcers to being an international service populated with generic foreign presenters, in which Britain is always referred to in the third person. In fact BBC World Service declares itself as “The Worlds Radio Station”.

  28. David Murfin
    August 16, 2016

    You might have written this a little differently if you had trained on cold wet winter nights with fellow athletes who you would be competing with on the track in the summer.

  29. James Munroe
    August 16, 2016

    After the vote for Brexit came that disastrous, England football result, against Iceland.

    Headlines were emblazoned across the newspapers, ridiculing England, and linking Brexit to a sports failure.

    How odd, that there is nothing in the Press, linking Brexit and the fantastic Olympics’ results.

    I find it uplifting, to see Britain expressing a desire to throw off the yoke of the EU and also demonstrating that our sports organisations, and the sportsmen and women, can achieve greatness. Because they have the orgainisation, the innovation,the determination and the financial investment (John Major’s National Lottery!), that has made Britain ‘punch far above its weight’.

    I look forward to the British spirit, driving Britain to do the same, as a nation, and prospering after Brexit.

  30. Lifelogic
    August 16, 2016

    Lord Digby Jones in the times letters today suggests that John Major deserves a gold medal for grabbing some lottery money and directing it into high level sport. If sport cannot fund itself from spectators or participants (as football and many other sports do) then why should taxpayers many of whom have no interest in it at all be forced to fund it for others.

    Is this really the best use of lottery players money I can think of thousands of better uses for it? Then again I would never be daft enough to buy a lottery ticket, so at least it is not my money.

    John Major deserves no credit at all for anything ever, after his absurd ERM fiasco, 15%+ mortgages, the destruction of the Tory party for 3 plus terms, his failure to even apologises, Maastrict and his general incompetence all round. I think he, like the dire Osborne, also threatened the nation that interest (or mortgage rates) would rise if we left. Both should give us a very long period of silence.

  31. adams
    August 16, 2016

    After Brexit , waving the Union Flag in the Olympics made sense again . No longer an ironic joke . Who in their right mind wants to wave the blue (ring ed) of stars except some overpaid golfers ?

    1. John
      August 16, 2016

      The Union flag was waved in 2012. And 2008. 2004,2000 and back and back. The EU flag has NEVER been waved at an Olympics so why do you have to lie? It it because that is all you can do?

      1. Anonymous
        August 16, 2016

        The EU flag was never waved by any of our pro EU political parties either.

        Henceforth it should be and those who purport to support the EU should be happy to do so instead of hiding the fact.

        I don’t ever recall it appearing on any party’s literature at election times.

  32. matthu
    August 16, 2016

    John, I think you miss the point here. the correct treatment would be to ADD together the medals of Italy, Germany, France, Netherlands, Hungary, Spain etc. when you would quickly realise that the EU is well-able to compete with the rest of the world …

    (Of course, the only question then is whether to include Israel, Australia, Russia and Turkey along the lines of the European Song contest … )

    August 16, 2016

    There was the non-existent EU Army…which somehow bit by bit, bayonet by bayonet is coming to light. So perhaps behind the scenes there exists in embryonic stage, a EUFetus so to speak, a future Eulymics.
    Instead of the iconic five Olympic interlocked rings there could be the Five Presidents of the EU on a flag sporting neatly conjoining quintuplets merged at the head. The Quintessence of Doom.

  34. Peter Parsons
    August 16, 2016

    Worth pointing out that many of the competitors competing for GB in Rio will also compete under the flag of England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey etc. at other times in the same sports. Identity takes many forms and can occur at many levels. Would you advocate that, post-Brexit, our golfers no longer participate in the Ryder Cup?

    If independence is any sort of factor in Olympic success, one might ask where India is in the medals table?

    Fair competition depends on every participant playing by and adhering to the same set of rules. Each participant may not like every rule, but to participate all must agree to follow them. Participants who don’t like the rules, so leave to create their own version, deliver divided and less successful sports. A situation where each pair of participants in a sport end up having a bilateral negotiation to agree on what rules each particular game will be played under is something our main sports did away with in the mid-19th century. Imagine a football or rugby world cup where every game was played under a different set of rules agreed on by the two participating teams prior to each game. Sport learnt over 150 years ago that having a single, common set of rules and standards that all had an input to, but where not everyone gets everything they might want was the way forward and the more successful route. One wonders what our politicians might learn from the sporting leaders of the Victorian era.

    1. DaveM
      August 16, 2016

      “Would you advocate that, post-Brexit, our golfers no longer participate in the Ryder Cup?”

      As far as I’m aware, selection for the European Ryder Cup team doesn’t depend on being a citizen of an EU member country. The European fans use the EU flag because there is no other flag to use.

      And India have only ever been good at cricket, when it’s played in India, and before the visiting team gets used to the conditions.

      And, (as with most sports) the Ryder Cup was originally instigated by GB and the USA, so actually, it should be the European golfers that stop taking part and revert to USA vs GB. We’d probably win anyway.

      1. Peter Parsons
        August 17, 2016

        The whole premise of the original article is an attempt to claim that certain forms of identity are superior to others based on the personal political position of the original writer, an assertion which sport shows time and time again has no basis or validity.

        TeamGB is a collective identity, just as the European Ryder Cup team, as is the British Lions rugby team. The same athletes competing for GB will compete for the home nations and/or European representative teams in other competitions without feeling conflicted or compromised.

        I consider myself to have multiple identities based on where I was born and the places I have lived. The idea that any one of those would be considered superior to any other is a prejudice which resides in the mind of an individual, not a fact.

  35. John
    August 16, 2016

    What unbelievable rubbish.
    National flags have ALWAYS been raised at the Olympics so no one is reverting to them at all.
    The US is a collection of federal states.
    Every single country on the medal table is an independent country.
    It is sickening to see people like Redwood show so much disrespect for Olympic athletes.They are competing due to THEIR OWN hard work and dedication. It has nothing to do with being independent or doing badly because of EU membership.
    Why do leavers despise our athletes so much?

    Reply As I said! I agree they compete on their own hard work and merit.

    1. John
      August 16, 2016

      You may have said it but then you added a BUT and said it was all due to being independent. It is good that as the UK are still very much a member of the EU you now admit we are independent
      Olympic success has NOTHING to do with being member of the EU or not being a member. It has NOTHING to do with Brexit.
      We have had national sporting success and failures in the EU

    2. Ed Mahony
      August 17, 2016

      ‘It is sickening to see people like’
      – I disagree strongly with Mr Redwood on Europe but he deserves respect as do all people who hold different views on Europe (there are strong cases both for remaining and leaving the EU, i think). Also, because he’s contributed much to this country through Parliament, and in particular I think he has a lot of interesting things to say about business and the economy (although I don’t agree about everything).

  36. Richard1
    August 16, 2016

    This post seems rather a stretch. Remain did not have a monopoly on nonsense in the referendum. Vote Leave clearly argued for the potential for ‘£350m per week for the NHS’ (aka ‘600,000 more nurses’), though that pledge was clearly incompatible with the pledge to maintain funding also for eg farmers, universities etc which currently get funds from the EU. Nigel Farage now agrees this point.

    The modern focus on numbers of medals for ‘Team GB’ etc is a departure from the original Olympic spirit, which focused on individual athletic achievement not national competition.

    Nor is there any evidence of the UK (or constituent nations) outperforming EU nations in other sports – football for example.

    The point about the importance of competition is however a good one. The EU often seeks to stifle competition through harmonised regulation, and increasingly seeks to do so in taxation. EU countries would be more prosperous if competition were encouraged rather than stifled between them.

  37. ann ceely
    August 16, 2016


    Responsibilities are more important than liberty. We are responsible as a nation for safe-guarding our selves and fellow citizens. The legal doesn’t say much about this – just assumes it. However, that is why we should be protecting our borders, fishing-rights, etc and ensuring British citizens are looked after BEFORE aliens.

  38. Ed Mahony
    August 16, 2016

    Of the 12 GB gold medals, 4 were won by Scots (in both individual and team events). If we lose Scotland because of Brexit, then our total gold medal tally might have been down to 12, in third place, instead of second – three behind China now with 15 golds.

    Reply As recent polling shows, the Brexit vote has made no difference to Scotland’s wish to stay in the UK

  39. Denis Cooper
    August 16, 2016

    It’s getting around:


    “This woman’s UK Supreme Court case will provide a clear legal path to block Article 50 and stop Brexit”

    It’s worth reading the mixed reactions in the comments section.

    There are those who want to prevent the government serving the Article 50 notice that we intend to leave the EU because they don’t want us to leave the EU and they calculate that if the decision was left to Parliament then we would stay in the EU. Then there are those who don’t want the Article 50 notice to be served because they want to leave the EU but think that rather than an Article 50 notice being served Parliament should pass an Act, agreeing with those who want to keep us in the EU apart from their calculation of how Parliament would react. Then there are those who notionally want to leave the EU and believe that the Article 50 notice should be served, but want to delay that happening for some months or perhaps years because they have talked themselves and others into believing that once that trigger was pulled we would be left to the tender mercies of the EU Commission who would be prepared to cut short the negotiations exactly two years later and so would be in a position to dictate their terms to us, and without any worry about how the lack of a new settlement would impact on other member states.

    I’m afraid that between them – those who don’t want us to leave the EU, and those who do want us to leave the EU but not via Article 50, and in some cases only to stay in the EEA – there’s a very good chance that they’ll manage to keep us in the EU.

    Reply Oh spare us all this. Just as many of you here repeatedly said we would not deliver a referendum, and then thought we would lose it. The government has said it will take us out, and it should be able to command a majority in the Commons to do so. The Lords are unlikely to try to stop the will of the people as expressed by both a referendum and an elected government trying to sort it!

    1. Denis Cooper
      August 16, 2016

      Baroness Wheatcroft thinks it’s worth trying to persuade the Lords to stop it.

  40. hefner
    August 16, 2016

    What is tough to understand is how English/British people can be so quick at endorsing nationalistic traits (and various related biases) on this site!

    1. Jax
      August 16, 2016

      Nationalistic is not the same as biased. Conflating the two is just playing word games and hoping that by doing so you can persuade people to be ashamed of their pride in their country. It is a technique typical of liberal left-wingers who subscribe to political correctness. Being proud of your country and its achievements does not exclude being friendly and appreciative of other countries and their people. We go to those countries to experience their culture and their people’s way of life; their diversity is enriching and enables us to be more open and tolerant but we come back home to live in our culture with our people and our way of life and there’s nothing wrong in appreciating that too.

  41. Anonymous
    August 16, 2016

    I am both proud and humbled by our Olympic representatives. Without exception they are all articulate and lovely.

  42. fedupsoutherner
    August 16, 2016

    I really don’t what to say about your post John but I do know that all the talented people representing the UK have made me proud of our country and their achievements. They have done so very well and compete to the best of their ability. Some of the results have been fantastic and the broken records have been brilliant. Let’s not forget the sacrifices made by many of the parents who have stood behind them all the way. I have been reduced to tears many times throughout this competition and having a sense of pride in one’s nation is a grand feeling.

    Reply I agree – great performances and dedication

  43. Margaret
    August 16, 2016

    Some try to politicize the Olympic sports , but all the entrants and remember to even enter the Olympics the sportswomen and men have to excel, demonstrate excellent attitudes. The magnificent match Murray V El Potro ended with both hugging each other recognising the gruelling sporting fight and subsequent exhaustion each faced. The sporting elite cannot bluff their way to the top.

  44. APL
    August 17, 2016

    JR: “Olympic medals and Brexit”

    We haven’t left yet.

  45. Peter
    August 17, 2016

    We are doing well in Rio because lottery money is being used to buy medals in sports that are perceived to be easy targets for medals (for obvious reasons)! When you think about it, this is hardly the way to support the Olympic ideals. How our football team performs against the French, Spanish and Germans at major championships would be a better barometer of our success. Somehow they seem to do rather better than we do, despite the EU! Even the “Brexit bounce” and supporters’ cries of “we’re leaving Europe” didn’t seem to help England this year.

  46. Lindsay McDougall
    August 17, 2016

    If your reasoning is correct, we may soon expect an improvement in the performances of the national soccer team. We were an independent nation in 1966 and Union Jacks fluttered in the audience.

  47. Peter
    August 17, 2016

    Given that our Team GB athletes are almost all under 45 and live and train in our big cities (that Somerset farmer shooter not withstanding), most of them are almost certainly in favour of remaining in the UK. I am not an Olympic historian, but I doubt that our success at the Olympics prior to 1972 was much better than what we have accomplished in the last 12 years while in the EU. I wouldn’t be daft enough, however, to suggest a link between being in the EU and our recent success.

  48. Peter
    August 17, 2016

    One more point – apologies for three-post ranting! The chap in charge of Team GB funding was on the radio this morning, pointing out that they don’t give much money to Olympic team sports (e.g., Basketball, etc) because realistically they know that we have little chance in these team events! We do better in individual sports where medals can be targeted strategically with less “investment” (the word was used to describe buying a lottery ticket!). By contrast, Germany seems very good at putting a strong team out for these team events, despite its generally more considered approach these days to flag-waving.

  49. Graham Martin
    August 18, 2016

    Team GB would have won medals in or out of Europe because of the way we fund our successful sports people: the lottery is not subject to interference from Brussels and is not motivated by political ambitions. Being part of Europe does not preclude championing the achievements of individual countries; indeed one might ask why Wales or Scotland don’t free themselves from the embrace of the U.K. and compete as separate nations as they do for the Commonwealth games. Trying to score points for Brexit on the basis of success in Rio is scraping the barrel.

    Reply I did not seek to do any such thing and made clear the achievement was down to the athletes.

  50. Peter VAN LEEUWEN
    August 18, 2016

    Oh dear, in the Olympic medals per capita website the UK only reaches to 13th place or lower, depending on calculation. What a pity for Brexiteers and other nationalists! 🙂

    Reply We did not claim credit for Brexit!

  51. APL
    August 18, 2016

    Peter Van Leeuwen: “What a pity for Brexiteers and other nationalists!”

    This Brexiteer isn’t much bothered by the Olympics.

    This Brexiteer is happy to take an altogether more sanguine approach to your Europhillic frothing these days.

    And, I heartily congratulate the Dutch team on their eight gold medals

  52. Kev
    August 19, 2016

    What you deliberately fail to mention is that if you add up the medals from all EU countries excluding UK then the total will be the top of medal table.

    Cooperation ALWAYS overcomes competition.

    Reply How has EU “cooperation” helped any of our great athletes to win a medal? They did it themselves, no thanks to politics and certainly no thanks to the EU.

    1. Kev
      August 22, 2016

      Mr. Redwood,
      I am perplexed how a clever individual like you refuses to understand my point.

      If I have not been clear enough then I have to explain what I mean:

      A larger group of talented individuals overcomes any smaller group of talented individuals.
      In this case, if you add the medals of athletes from all EU countries (even without UK) the total is more medals than any other nation.

      But if you like an answer to your question, just because team GB has been so successful in cycling I give you some examples of what the EU has done for these athletes:

      1- EU’s effort to make roads safer, thereby giving the chance to cyclists across EU to enjoy riding their bikes wherever they like. It can’t be denied that many British cyclists train across EU countries to develop their skills for different road and climate conditions:


      2-The European Directive No. 89/686/EC on personal protective equipment lays down the standards which could be adopted for cyclists’ helmets.

      3-A collaborative EU project MYMOSA, was on designing novel test methods for improving helmet standards. The funds were made available by EU to various universities including Imperial College of London.

      4-Toy safety regulations in EU, making things like small bycicles and tricycles safer for children:

      Please share your thoughts once you decide to stop patronising others for thinking differently.

      Hope this post passes the general rules of this website.

      Reply The athletes did not win their medals in the name of the EU but in the names of their nations, who helped train and sponsor them. Disagreeing is not patronising. The athletes all draped themselves in their national flags when they won.

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