Plastic Brits? Overseas territories athletes line up at Olympics

Athletes from the British overseas territories are competing in the 2012 Olympics. Picture: Nigel Chadwick/geograph.org.uk

Citizens of the UK’s overseas territories have been branded “plastic Brits” in the run-up to the 2012 Olympic Games, but one of them is now a strong contender to win a gold medal for Britain.

Shara Proctor of Anguilla is one of three people from the territories in Team GB. Three other territories – Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands – are allowed to enter their own teams in the Games.

No one from the South Atlantic islands is competing this year, even though St Helena, Ascension and the Falklands have all sent sportspeople to the Commonwealth Games.

The Falklands have even produced an Olympic champion – more than 100 years ago. Louis Charles Baillon, born in 1881 in Fox Bay, won a gold medal as a member of England’s field hockey team at the 1908 Games, which also took place in London.

The “plastic Brits” furore was stirred up by some in the British media who failed to understand that people in the overseas territories were full British citizens.

Delano Williams of the Turks and Caicos Islands, who narrowly missed out on a place in Team GB in the men’s 200 metres athletics, was one of those caught up in it.

The island’s angry governor, Ric Todd, described the coverage as “nonsensical, wrong and shameful.” He said of Williams: “He is born British and he is as British as I am.”

Shara Proctor could not represent her home island of Anguilla because, like most of the territories, it is not recognised by the International Olympic Committee.

She established herself as a potential gold medallist by smashing the British long-jump record, which had stood for 29 years. She jumped 6.95 metres, five centimetres further than the previous record.

Shara, the daughter of the island’s head of sport, has been quoted saying: “If I win a medal in London it will be for Britain but, in my heart, Anguilla.”

Despite being a member of the British team, she had never actually visited England before this year. Henry Bellingham, UK Minister for the overseas territories, is understood to have requested a meeting with her.

Teenager Georgina Cassar moved from Gibraltar to train full-time as a member of the British rhythmic gymnastics team. They suffered disappointment when they were told they would not be given a place to compete the Games, but the decision was overturned on appeal.

Georgina represented Gibraltar at the Delhi Commonwealth Games. She is not the first Gibraltarian to compete in the Olympics. Peter Dignan won a bronze medal in the rowing in 1976, but as a member of the New Zealand team.

Jenaya Wade-Fray of Bermuda is also represening Great Britain, in the women’s basketball.

Bermuda, with a population of more than 60,000 on an island smaller than St Helena, is fielding the largest team from the territories. Its competitors drew cheers from the crowd during the opening ceremony, when they paraded in Bermuda shorts.

Brothers Zander and Jesse Kirland are competing together in the sailing. Team captain Jesse was chosen to carry the flag in the opening ceremony, but said: “I would like my brother to do that.” His wish was granted.

The rest of Bermuda’s team are all Olympic veterans: long jumpers Arantxa King and Tyrone Smith, triathletes Flora Duffy and Tyler Butterfield, show jumper Jillian Terceira and swimmer Roy Burch.

The Cayman Islands competitors have already begun their campaign, with brothers Shaune and Brett Fraser finishing 8th and 5th in their heats in the 200m freestyle. They both have other events.

Athletes Ronald Forbes, Kemar Hyman and Cydonie Mothersill – who made the final of the women’s 200m in Beijing – compete in the track events.

The British Virgin Islands – population 22,000 – have two athletes competing: Tahesia Harrigan-Scott runs in the women’s 100m, and Alexander J’Maal is in the men’s 100m.

Neither the Cayman Islands or the British Virgin Islands have ever won a medal.

Clarence Hill won Bermuda’s only Olympic medal – pre-2012 – when he took bronze in the boxing in 1976. He made Bermuda the least populated nation ever to win a medal in the summer Olympics.

  • Gibraltar may not have its own team of sportsmen competing, but it will have a squad taking part in the sailing at Weymouth. Eight Gibraltar Defence Police Officers will be helming fast rigid-hulled inflatable boats as part of the security operation.
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