Monday, February 10, 2014

Curling : A Scolympian Story

The men's and women's curling competitions are getting underway today at the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Great Britain are as usual represented by all-Scottish teams, composed of exactly the same players who competed for Scotland at last year's World and European Championships. The women's team skipped by Eve Muirhead are the current world champions (as Team Scotland), and are therefore the slight favourites for the gold medal, although two months ago they were defeated in the European Championship final by the same Swedish rink that they got the better of in the world final last spring. The men's team led by former two-time world champion David Murdoch should have at least a 50/50 chance of a medal, having won a bronze at both the worlds and Europeans last year.

Ever since curling was reintroduced into the Olympic programme for Nagano 1998, I've been a passionate supporter of the Great Britain teams, without reservation. (In spite of the gold medal won by the Rhona Martin-led women's team in 2002, it's actually been more frustration than elation along the way, with a succession of near misses.) But after the grotesque spectacle of the UK government and the anti-independence campaign shamelessly politicising the events of London 2012 (and continuing to do so even just a few days ago with Cameron's speech), I can't deny that I'm struggling against a slight feeling of ambivalence this time. We know precisely what will happen if Muirhead and co win the gold - they'll be wrapped tightly in the Union Jack by the BOA and the London media, their Scottishness will be downplayed or even denied, and they'll be harassed and cajoled into making 'helpful' comments that can be spun in a political way just in time for the referendum. It's worth remembering that Sir Chris Hoy has never explicitly declared himself an opponent of independence (OK, we all suspect that he probably is, but he's kept his position private), and yet that hasn't stopped the anti-independence campaign and the UK government ruthlessly appropriating him as their poster-boy.

It really is a disgrace that we can't all feel 100% comfortable uniting, nationalist and unionist alike, behind our country's finest athletes. The fact that we can't is entirely the responsibility of the unionist media, anti-independence campaigners and the London government. But for me personally, some loyalties run too deep, and I'll find it impossible not to support the same teams that I've cheered on for Scotland in so many previous world and European Championships, so I'm sure my ambivalence will soon clear and I'll get behind them all the way, regardless of which country's name is on their back.

Incidentally, if anyone trots out the old chestnut "they may be Scottish but they couldn't have done it without Britain", just remember that this is one case where that is absolutely, demonstrably untrue. Any medals won by the curlers will be a success made entirely in Scotland - the players are Scottish, the facilities are in Scotland, and curling would inevitably be just as high a funding priority (possibly higher) for a Scottish Olympic Association as it currently is for the BOA. The only difference would be a welcome removal of the BOA's right to interfere in selection policy - if memory serves me right, it was the BOA that insisted on selection by individual player rather than by team from 2006 onwards, which did not work out at all well for the women's team in either 2006 or 2010 as the players failed to gel.

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Yesterday was something of a landmark for this blog, with it receiving its second-highest number of visitors in its six-year history. (The only busier day was a freakish occasion in 2011 when one of my posts went viral on Twitter.) Many thanks to anyone new who dropped by!


  1. James

    Have you seen the tables for the YG/BBC "immigration" poll?

    It dates from October, and has an indy question with Yes 33%, No 52%, DK 15%.

    Would that have altered the average polling at thet time?

  2. Yes, it would have affected it, but only fractionally, because the YouGov poll in the Poll of Polls sample until mid-December was the September one showing Yes 32%, No 52%. What interests me most about that poll is what Scottish Skier pointed out in a comment at Wings - if the breakdown of the figures is in any way typical of YouGov polling in general, they're massively oversampling respondents who were born in other parts of the UK, and massively undersampling respondents who were born in Scotland. If my back of the envelope calculations are correct, that alone would mean that they're overstating the No lead by about 3%.

    I was actually going to write a post about that very subject this afternoon, but I've run out of time! Maybe later...

  3. While not strictly comparable (since the census covers all ages, and not just those 16+, the % diff between census & YG is significant,

    British citizen, born in the rest of UK (not Scotland) - YG 18% : census 10%

    Born in Scotland (regardless of citizenship) - YG 76% : census 83%.

    Seems to confirm Scottish-skier's point.

  4. As a proud Scotsman living in America, it makes me sick to my stomach that I have to watch our nations athletes forced to wear the Union Jack and represent a nation that is not their own. The should be allowed to proudly wear the Cross of St. Andrew into battle!!! The fact that those slimy Brits can't beat us is the only reason they don't have the guts to field a team of their own countrymen! Alba Gu Brath!!!!