In praise of Great Britain and London 2012

Great Britain: our country. Our greatest team.

Tonight marks the end of the greatest show on earth, the London 2012 Olympics. (Roll on the Paralympics!) It’s been a triumph for Great Britain as both host and the third most successful team.

I’ve loved the fact we’ve competed as Great Britain. I wrote during the Beijing Olympics how Great Britain is a far more resonant title for our country than United Kingdom. It’s small wonder that Churchill immortalised Britain in describing our battle for survival in 1940 as the Battle of Britain. He was proud to describe himself as Great Britain’s prime minister. ‘United Kingdom’ carries no such emotional weight. It simply refers to our country’s constitutional status. No one would die in a ditch for the ‘Youkay’. (Britain’s national anthem leaves me equally cold, given it’s all about the head of state not the country. I remain unmoved by the song even after 29 plays…)

(PS: Before anyone comments, I do know the difference between Great Britain and the UK. Perhaps some loyalists in Northern Ireland feel aggrieved that the media never use the Olympic team’s full title of ‘Great Britain and Northern Ireland’.)