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.
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We’ve cheered Qatari athletes, especially the women who are here representing their country for the first time. So we’ve been hypersensitive to the story of the female Olympian.Skip to next paragraph
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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This games has been nicknamed the female games, as it is the first time that all countries have sent female athletes. We were all astonished to hear that women weren’t allowed to run further than 200 meters before the 1960 Rome Olympics. It is also the first time there are more females than males in the American squad. For Team Great Britain, their first medals were won by female athletes. It was an eye opener to realize how much has changed for women in sports in just 50 years, and there is still so far to go – not the least of which is the startling difference in clothing the male and female beach volleyball players wear, which was not lost on our kids.
We all noticed stories about athletes who have “switched” their country allegiance, like Ben Hoskin who represented Britain at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and this year is representing Paraguay. He was born in Columbia, his mother is Paraguayan, and his father is British.
Then there are swimmers like Mihail “Mike” Alexandrov who once competed for his native Bulgaria and now swims for the US; and Olaf Wildeboer who competed for Spain then for the Netherlands, while his brother continues to compete for Spain, and their father coached the Dutch national team.
Our children are legally American, Australian, and British – and, in some less formal ways, a bit Qatari. They live in the Middle East but understand the First Amendment rights they have under the constitution when they are in the US that they don’t yet have under the constitution in Qatar. They know a great deal about the British monarchy and the times of the Tudors and the Celts from their British schooling. They chant “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Oi, Oi, Oi!” and love Vegemite on toast.
If they ever are good enough to compete in an Olympics, who will they compete for? Will they be accepted by any of their countries as a “true” American, Australian, or Brit?
It may be a hard concept to grasp, but the global community that is the Olympics is increasingly represented by individuals whose identity is broader than one nationality.