Friday, 17 August 2012

The Real Olympic Legacy

It has been five days now since the 2012 Olympics came to a ceremonious end after London had been the center of the world for two weeks. People are still talking about their favourite moments from the games and leaving their British flags up for all to see.

For a nation that prides itself on multiculturalism,  hanging the British flag, for most, was seen as something to feel ashamed about. Something to feel guilty over. Why is this? When did a symbol that unites all the home nations become such a taboo subject? Up until the Olympics, it felt wrong to be patriotic in fear of either offending others or looking like you were part of the British National Party. And this is where the problem lies.

Over the decades, the British flag has been turned from something that unites, to something that segregates. In the late 1960s a new right wing party had been formed by members of the BNP and League of Empire Loyalists (LEL). This party was The National Front (NF). The cornerstone of the National Front's manifesto was immigration and non-whites, "The National Front advocates a total ban on any further non-White immigration into Britain."

When you hear the words National Front mentioned or the BNP, one of the first images you think of is the British Flag. The reason being is that they used this flag as a symbol. A symbol of Britain. Something they stood for. They wanted people to think that what they were doing was an act of patriotism. They wanted everyone in the country to be British and white. What they actually achieved was turning Britain against them and the flag into something people despised through its links with such political parties.

The British flag was incorporated into the NF's own logo.

One of the other images that comes to mind when you think of such parties are Skinheads. The Skinheads became synonymous with these far right parties. It became a uniform for the members. Harrington jackets, Ben Sherman shirts, braces, drainpipe jeans and Dr Marten boots.

The Skinhead subculture was born out of the Mod movement in the 60's. Working class youths who had had no money up until the post war economic boom, began to spend their money on new fashions that were worn by American soul and R&B groups.

The Mod scene then gave birth to Skinheads, which was primarily a 'tougher' looking version of the Mods. Skinheads were heavily influenced by Jamaican Rude Boy culture and fashion, ska music and early reggae. It is important to know that the Skinheads did not start out as a racist and violent subculture. It was born out of a love of music and fashion.

It was in the mid 1970's that some (not all) Skinhead groups became affiliated with the far right parties. Working class youths with no money, lack of work, angry at the government, now had somewhere to put this anger.

1970's Skinheads with British Flag in the background

It is from this point that people then made the assumption that all Skinheads = racists, and that the British Flag was their symbol. Whenever images of the National Front were in the paper it was more often than not photos of young men with shaven heads, with a British flag being waved.

These ideas of Skinheads and the British flag have been firmly planted in our heads. I myself am not a skinhead but I do own a fair amount of Skinhead clothing. I own a Harrington jacket, Ben Sherman shirts and Dr Marten boots. I remember once wearing my boots to work a few years ago for the first time. I will always remember what my friend at work said to me as I walked into the office, "Watch out people, here comes 'Romper Stomper'!"

At first I laughed along, but then suddenly I felt a wave of guilt over me. I immediately wished I had not worn them to work. For anyone who doesn't know, Romper Stomper is a 90's film that follows the exploits and downfall of a neo-Nazi skinhead group. Why did I feel guilt for wearing a nice looking (and comfy!) pair of boots? One, I'm not a Skinhead, and two, I'm not a racist.

Even with a far right party that was started over 40 yrs ago, we cannot help but associate the British flag with these groups.

Until now.

I honestly believe that these Olympics have been able to re-claim the British flag (and what it means to be British) back from the far right and stamp out peoples' negative connotations that surround it. Being British is about acceptance, togetherness. It's about learning new cultures, not judging others and welcoming those from less fortunate countries into our own.

Jessica Ennis, Olympic gold medalist
For two weeks the British public have been waving their flags for Team GB's athletes. From a working class woman with a Jamaican father and a white mother, to a black woman who won the first ever female boxing Olympic gold medal, to a Somalian immigrant double gold winning medalist. The Olympics has brought the whole nation together, all religions, all races.

We have been able to fly the flag for all the right reasons. Forgetting everything it has stood for in the past. Great Britain is a multicultural society. I hope that the Union Jack can now be flown all year round in pride, rather than shame and not just once every four years.

This is the Olympic legacy.

Mo Farah, Olympic double gold winning medalist

No comments:

Post a Comment