London 2012 Olympics: A family postcard from the Games
A British-American-Australian family from Qatar goes to the London 2012 Olympics and learns – in attending everything from track to archery to beach volleyball – that they support Team World.
We brought our family to London this summer to experience the Olympic Games first hand – and unexpectedly our global citizenship has been validated.
While we’re celebrating both elite athletic achievements and the coming together of all nations to compete, there’s a huge focus on “Who do you support?” Are you Team USA, Team GB, Team Australia, or Team Qatar?
Susie Billings is an independent business consultant in Doha, Qatar. This is her third Olympics, having previously attended the Los Angeles Games in 1984 and Sydney in 2000. She and her husband, Brett Humphreys, love to travel, and their children are used to long-haul plane flights as they traverse the globe.
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That’s an easy question to answer for most, but our son, 11, and daughter, 9, both born in London, spent the first half of their lives there and the second half in Qatar where they attend a British school. Their dad is Australian (and also has British citizenship), and I was born and raised in the US with an American father and Australian mother.
Though we were squeezed in and feeling at one with the global community in the international crowd of 60,000 in Hyde Park for the arrival of the Olympic flame, once the summer Games began we suddenly noticed an intense focus on nationalism. Supporters were draped in their national flag, with faces, eyes, and nails painted in their national colors. Norwegians wear Viking hats, the Dutch stand out in their orange wear, lots of Australians carry kangaroos, and the British sport Union Jack leggings, shirts, jackets, body suits, you name it!
For us, the question “Who do you support?” became “Who are you”?
We have American, Australian, and British flags to wave, and we are also cheering on Qatari athletes.
Our daughter has embraced them all, with transfer tattoos on her face of British flags, an “I love Australia sticker,” a Qatar flag button on her hat, and carrying an American flag.
Our son is more confused. Asked if he wants to wear one of the flags we have at the Olympic Park, he tells us he doesn’t feel very patriotic. He appreciates the skills of the athletes, but feels more of a world citizen than a fan of any one country over another.
I feel for him and know he will sometimes struggle like I have as he switches from country to country. (I have lived on four continents in the past 20 years.) Like me, he will feel at home in the US, Australia, the UK, and Qatar. But he won’t necessarily be accepted by any of them. Are you really one of us if you are also the other?
As we’ve popped through the athletic spectrum – volleyball at Earl’s Court, soccer at Wembley Stadium, archery at Lord’s Cricket Ground, beach volleyball at the Horse Guard’s Parade, weightlifting at ExCel, Equestrian dressage in Greenwich Park, basketball, water polo, and hockey at Olympic Park, and athletics at the main Olympic Stadium – we've also experienced our sense of global citizenship.