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Union Jack is not representative of modern Britain


When the great British moments of London 2012 are picked out, you can be certain the trio of gold medals won by Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah will top most lists.
One followed the next inside an hour that will live long in the memory of anyone who enjoyed it … I don’t know anyone who didn’t. It will be a happy memory, there will be a sporting legacy and there could even be social ones.
Because success was built around athletes like Ennis, the down-to-earth daughter of a Jamaican father; Farah, who arrived to Britain from Somalia at the age of eight and the home-grown Rutherford, great-grandson of a Newcastle United footballer.
Then you’ve got boxer Anthony Ogogo and 400metre silver medallist Christine Ohuruogo, both of Nigerian parentage along with so many other names like Zoe Smith, her namesake Louis, who medalled in gymnastics and puncher Nicola Adams.
They call them Team GB and they’re the successful and smiling face of modern Britain waved to the podium by millions of Union Jacks.
The sea of Union Jacks is where this scene begins to jar a little. To me, it represents something oppressive, not inclusive.
It’s an old-fashioned symbol of empire; colonialism seeped in blood.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy to be in Britain, I enjoy living and working here, but I can’t discount the connotations of a flag which has waved over dark history.
Is it a fit with modern Britain, the Britain soaked in the joy of Ennis, Farah, Rutherford… of cosmopolitan Team GB? I don’t think so and reinventing its design to make fashion accessories of cushions and dresses doesn’t rewrite history.
It is not only a piece of material. When I walk by a house flying the Union Jack and it’s not the Olympics or Jubilee, I automatically think’s someone bearing prejudice lives inside.
Like millions of others I have taken great joy from Britain’s achievements in the Olympics.
My heart raced when Ennis kicked again to win gold, I shouted at the television when Farah broke with four hundred metres to go and the warmth with which this nation holds its winning athletes makes me feel warm too.
But I just can help feeling this flag is outdated and out of step with what is going on, all that has changed and continues to change. The Union Jack is a symbol of what Britain once was, not what Britain has now become. It doesn’t pay tribute to inclusivity.
It might feel cosy around the shoulders of winning athletes but it doesn’t look it. Not to rain on the Olympic parade, but the reason a lot of successful British athletes are in this country is because, some time ago, their ancestral home was invaded by forces flying the Union Jack.
Today’s athletes and fans deserve a better symbol – one in keeping with where modern multicultural Britain is at rather than a reminder of its bloody beginnings.

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