The Olympics And Norn Iron

Norn Iron of course do not have a Team at the London (or indeed any other Olympics) because Norn Iron does not actually exist.

The National Olympic Committe for “Great Britain and Norhern Ireland” is made up of several Sports Federations which do not actually have a presence in Norn Iron. In Olympic terms Norn Iron is a kinda Demilitarized Zone.

Although “Ireland” in Olympic terms means the Republic of Ireland, it is actually called “Ireland” and most Sports Federations which make up the Olympic Council of Ireland organise on a 32-county (ie the “Republic” and Norn Iron). For example, the Irish Amateur Boxing Association organises on an all-Ireland basis and Irish teams are chosen from all over the island.

Some like Athletics Ireland organise primarily in the Republic. And “Northern Ireland Athletics” a component part of the British Athletics governing body organises in the North. There are several clubs, primarily in “Catholic” areas of the North which are loosely connected to Athletics Ireland.

There are other factors at work. Firstly, all people born in Norn Iron are eligible to compete for “Ireland”…..or “Great Britain and Northern Ireland” but a factor is that it is naturally more difficult to make the British team than the Irish team……just like it would normally be more difficult to represent the United States than Dominican Republic….. ….the sheer number of sports persons in USA (population 310 million) is more than the number of sports persons in Dominican Republic (population 10 million). And of course the pool of talent in Britian (population 60 million) is deeper than the pool of talent in Ireland (population 6 million).

The Olympics only happen every four years. For a month they are intensely high profile……especially in 2012 if you happen to live in Britain or Ireland. But mostly they are low profile.

Football has a higher profile. It is an all year round thing. Intensive. And occasionally the focus of angry debate. Many (unionist) supporters of Norn Iron’s football team question the right of nationalist players to opt to play for the Republic of Ireland.

But take the sport of (Field Hockey). As Olympic hosts……the Mens and Womens Hockey teams of “Great Britain and Northern Ireland”will be at the Olympic Games in London. These teams will include players from (mostly) England with some Scottish and Welsh players. Theoretically there might be some players from Norn Iron but on this occasion it is not likely.

In March 2011…….the Irish (Field) Hockey teams will be competing in Qualifying tornaments (Women in Belgium…….Men in Ireland) and the winning teams in these tournaments (six teams compete) will go to London.

The history and legacy of Field Hockey is interesting. It is a “garrison game” associated with late 19th century “Britishness” and although played by both (exclusive) Catholic schools in the Republic… is a (almost) totally associated with Unionism in the North.

The make-up of the squads who will seek to qualify is interesting. About one third of both squads are Ulstermen and Ulsterwomen and almost certainly “unionist” in outlook. Logically the folks who agonise about Nationalists opting to play Football for the Republic should be agonising about their fellow unionists opting to play Hockey for “the Republic”. Logically they should be playing for the team which has “Northern Ireland” in the title.


Of course Football is THE World Game. In a way that (Field) Hockey or Baseball will never be.

Nationality……or Sporting Eligibility…… basically “an Irish solution to an Irish problem”. And these compromises dont really stand much scrutiny.

Consider  a fictional case of…….I choose a sport at “random”………Table Tennis.

Consider how many excellent Table Tennis players there are in China. It is more than likely that the best Irish Table Tennis player (there are no international class players in Ireland) would not be in the Top 1000 in China. If the 900th ranked Chinese Table Tennis lady in China migrated to the “United Kingdom” and went to work as a doctor in Belfast (part of the “United Kingdom”) and married a Belfast guy who is not a big supporter of Nationalist rights……….lets assume that our “Chinese” player is now the 20th best Table Tennis player in “Great Britain and Northern Ireland” … is not likely that she would make the British Olympic Team……..but as the best player in Ireland (where Table Tennis is organised on a 32 county basis), she would probably get thru a Qualifying Tournament.




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