Billions of people around the world see the Olympics as a noble example of international cooperation and the indomitability of the human spirit. For once, the Olympics offer us a chance to set our political beliefs and agendas aside, and instead come together to celebrate our common humanity.
For some of us, that is. Of course the Olympics will never be free of political agendas. Since it’s earliest days the event has been seen by countries as a chance to show some form of superiority over their neighbours. This is as true in 2016 as it has ever been.
Ever the opportunists, Brexiters have taken the triumph of British athletes to demonstrate the natural superiority of the Anglo-Saxon race; despite this year’s team GB having more Scottish, Welsh and Irish than any previous team. They have seized upon British successes as proving that Britain can succeed outside of the EU, despite Britain not having left the EU yet.
This reaction from Brexiters was not unexpected. One thing that was not expected was the emergence an edited version of the medals table that appeared on an un-official pro-EU Facebook page. The table showed –perfectly accurately- the position of the EU should it be treated as one nation. Naturally it placed first by quite a distance. The backlash from the Brexiters was explosive. All across the Internet scorn was poured upon Junker and the EU for attempting to ‘claim British success as their own’. To me, this sentiment sums up everything there is to know about Brexit. These people would rather place second than cooperate. They would rather fail alone than share their success for one second. Frankly I find this attitude to be disgusting.
This mentality stretches far further than Olympic medals however. In the grand scheme of international politics, Brexiters would rather fail and slip into oblivion than work together with our friends and allies. They would rather cling desperately to the last fading embers of British nationalism –the idea of a state that is unlikely to survive the next decade- than become truly powerful again.
For me, there is no more fitting end to ‘Great’ Britain. No one ever earned the title of ‘Great’ by being a coward. Nobody who chooses to isolate themselves due to paranoia and delusions ever finds the same success as someone who chooses to stand up and be counted. At a time when the whole world is celebrating the indomitability of the human spirit – the choice to keep fighting when every part of you is begging for rest, the courage to not surrender when you feel like you have nothing left to give- to use these great achievements to justify hatred, isolationism and pure cowardice is the most abhorrent thing I can imagine.
Attempts to try and twist the Olympics to political ends will always be a constant theme of the games, but will never be any less deplorable. The Olympics embody international cooperation, the setting-aside of political conflict in favour of friendship. Values that stand completely contrary to everything the Brexit vote represented.