Give yourself a gold, Great Britain, for winning the race
BY RICK TELANDER Twitter: @RickTelander August 7, 2012 11:50AM
Jessica Ennis of Great Britain celebrates after winning gold in the heptathlon of the London 2012 Olympic Games. | Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images
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Updated: August 7, 2012 2:04PM
LONDON—England has race problems, just like so many other countries. According to statistics, one in eight of its current residents was born somewhere else. That means fewer and fewer people look like Queen Elizabeth, or even Prince Charles, for that matter. Though there are still many folks with grand nasal protruberances.
Still, darker skinned, foreign-accented immigrants are slowly, one could say, taking over the country. Or, one could say, the ``foreigners’’ are simply showing the power, vitality, and creativity that comes when a country opens its arms to all and assimilates differences rather than rejects them. Even if it was done reluctantly.
Many countries in these Olympics still trot out teams of homogenous-looking athletes, teams of competitors who all resemble one another in an ethnic, even evolutionary way. The day we see a black man compete for China or an Asian-born woman compete for Saudi Arabia, for instance, will be some day, indeed.
The United States has long had teams of mixed peoples, though blacks were essentially excluded for many years by lack of opportunity, some could say Native Americans have never had a chance, and Jews were kept out of the 1936 Munich Games.
But England, already reveling in its structural success for these Olympics—with some folks wearing ``GREAT Britain’’ T-shirts—had its proudest moment Saturday night. That was when, in the space of sixty minutes, Jessica Ennis won the heptathlon, Greg Rutherford won the long jump, and Mo Farah won the 10,000 meters at the Olympic Stadium. All three are British citizens. And, on the surface, the trio could hardly be more different.
Little ``Golden Girl’’ Ennis, nicknamed ``Tadpole,’’ is the beige-skinned, mixed-race child of a white British mother and a black Jamaican father. Rutherford is the pale-white, red-haired chap from the English town of Milton Keynes (which is thinking of naming its train station after him). And Farah is the devoutly Muslim, dark-brown, Sudanese immigrant and family man who married a light-skinned English woman with whom he has one child and is expecting twins with next month.
The cheering for all at their grand moments seemed to be the same, though—no, I take that back,—the cheering for Ennis was insane. As she came around for the final turn in her 800 meter run, the last event in the grueling heptathlon, the roaring was—for an extended period of time—the loudest I ever have heard. It went on and on. It was measured at 103 decibels, and was believed to have been louder at certain points.
England clearly was cheering for the shy young lady whom it adores. But it was mainly cheering for itself, for its grace, for its bounty.
Farah, the distance runner, is a bubbly fellow who said, when asked if he would rather run for Somalia, ``Look, mate, this is my country.’’ Along with the Tadpole and the self-annointed``Ginger Wizard’’ Rutherford, Farah spoke volumes for tolerance, acceptance, hard work, letting it be.
Wrote columnist Ian Birrell in the London Evening Standard after the night: ``Almost to our surprise, we have cause to feel good about ourselves and permission to feel patriotic… (T)he flag has been reclaimed from the hate-fuelled fascist fringe. Gratifyingly, this pride is in the country we are today, not the country we once were.’’
Well done, mates.