Today the ‘I am Team GB’ day is making a big splash. A national broadcaster here in the UK even switched off its channel for an hour as part of efforts to promote the day in an unprecidented move. At one level, I think this is a good thing. People are rightly being encouraged to come together to celebrate the incredible success of Team GB in Rio.
However, scratch beneath the surface and for me, it is a missed opportunity. We have not one Team GB, we have two different groups. Team GB compete at the Olympic Games and Paralympics GB compete at the Paralympics. On one level, this is totally understandable, and even commercially desirable Both Team GB and Paralympics GB have separate commercial relationships with sponsors which they can use to further their respective interests. You might not know this, but even the lion for the Olympic and Paralympic team is different.
Besides the commercial reasons though, the waters become muddied. People can’t understand the reasons behind the two different team names and it creates a barrier to understanding where they need not be one. For me there is also the wider symbolic aspects of the difference. It implies a division between disabled and non disabled people which is not helpful. We are one nation and should have a united banner with which to celebrate the achievements of all of our athletes.
Days like today also highlight why the separate identities of the teams can be unhelpful. The Paralympics GB team are in a critical phase of their preparations for Rio with 11 days to go to the start of the Rio Paralympics. Just as with the combined events to celebrate the achievements of our athletes, was there no way in which the festivities of today could have been moved back a few days?
For now, we will continue to have two sporting teams competing under one flag. It will fall to us to show that, despite the difference in name, there will be no difference in the magnificient level of support we can give to our athletes. I hope that in future, a way forward can be found to give us one Great Britain team that we can take to our hearts as a nation.