By The Hunger
The Olympic circus has come to Vancouver with all the global fervour and controversy we had hoped for. Flag mania is sweeping the city, but is everyone waving the right flag?
Australia’s performance at past Winter Olympics isn’t legendary except for the famous Steven Bradbury gold medal. In recent years, however, Australia has steadily improved its position on the medal tally.
Dale Begg-Smith is Not Australian
Australia has won two medals so far: gold to Torah Bright for the women’s half pipe, and silver to Dale Begg-Smith in the men’s moguls.
On paper, Begg-Smith is about as Australian as Marmite. Canadian born, he came to Australia when he was 16 years old after a falling out with his native Canadian ski team. He has held an Australian passport for 6 years (he had to wait 3 years to actually get it), and now resides back in his hometown of Vancouver.
To clarify, he’s a Canadian flag, he’s an Australian citizen, and he currently resides in Vancouver, Canada. If the IOC’s rules were in tune with the Constitution of Flagging, Canada would have one more medal on their tally and Australia would have one less.
Changing nationalities just to play for another country’s team shouldn’t be so easy.
A person’s passport is generally the safest way to determine a person’s nationality (I was born and grew up in Sydney, Australia and hold an Australian passport. Case closed.) For people who have had more elaborate upbringings (e.g. parents from different countries, or people who have immigrated to a different country), their cases are more difficult to classify.
I believe someone’s “home country” is like one’s hardware and the “adopted country” is like his/her software. “Home country” can have more than one definition: the place where someone is born or the place where someone spent the majority of their upbringing, or the more complex definition, which nationality they consider themselves to be more.
When, if ever, can someone re-wire their hardware? Can the original hardware be modified after new software is installed?
Just because someone lives in a country different to their own, it doesn’t automatically disqualify them from representing their “home” nationality. Begg-Smith’s case is an example of this. I mean, as an elite winter sportsmen, there’d be more possibilities in Canada/U.S. than in Australia.
Australia’s other medallist, Torah Bright, also lives abroad in Salt Lake City, and she was the official flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony. But she didn’t represent the United States, did she?
I find it interesting to see which team a dual citizen supports when their two “home teams” go head to head, especially when they’ve lived in their “adopted country” for many years.
Is it possible for people to support two teams equally? It’s a difficult question for me to answer as it’s a choice I’ve never had to make. I would like to think that people prefer one team over the other no matter how infinitesimally small the difference is.
Many people share the same story as Begg-Smith. The world’s population is always on the move and always looking for greener pastures. But the only way you’ll ever be accepted as someone from that country is not by how many medals you win, the number of years spent in the country, or even a flag branded on your body. The only issue that truly matters is if you embrace the values of the flag you are waving.