St Helena Online

Tag: Gibraltar

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.

‘Nationettes’ star in Sunday Times Magazine

The iconic Sunday Times Magazines has chosen to celebrate its 50th anniversary issue with a superb picture spread from the UK’s South Atlantic territories. Well, naturally.

Jon Tonks has spent four years capturing the character of St Helena, Ascension, Tristan da Cunha, the Falklands and Gibraltar – ‘little rocky relics of empire’ that ‘cling to the motherland’s apron,’ as the magazine puts it.

Sadly, Jon’s picture of Tony Leo’s caravan didn’t make the magazine, but it can be found on his website.

Islanders may not appreciate the accompanying text by the celebrated writer AA Gill, which dwells much on the death of the British Empire but tells us virtually nothing about Gibraltar and the South Atlantic islands as they are today.

‘Now we’re left with these specks and corners of empire,’ he writes, ‘the tiny shards, little nationettes too small, too far and too slight to make it on their own.’ He’s got a point, though.

Gill does recall, interestingly, that his father made a television documentary about Tristan da Cunha in 1962, without actually going there. Since the Tristanians were all in the UK at the time, this is understandable.

He also rather wittily describes the loss of a succession of British colonies as ‘the end of stamp-collecting as we knew it.’

But The Sunday Times Magazine is renowned for its photo-journalism, and it’s the documentary pictures of Mr Tonks that carry the feature.

He doesn’t take the usual shots. The main picture on the opening double-page spread shows a couple of lifeboats that have come to rest amid rocks and lush greenery on Tristan, well up from the shore. Apparently they’re from the oil rig that bumped into the island in 2006.

Then there’s another of one of the beaches on Ascension.

Others show the governer of the Falkland Islands, posing in full uniform (which says something for the persuasive powers of Mr Tonks), fisherman Noddy with a freshly-caught tuna off Ascension, and a flight of steps on Gibraltar painted with a ‘defiantly British’ Union flag.

There’s also a picture of a past mayor of Gibraltar, slouching in a low chair in front of a placard that reads, ‘I was born British and I want to die British’.

There is only one picture of St Helena, looking down on Jamestown – a familiar view, but slightly different in a way that’s hard to pin down. The road up Ladder Hill can be seen snaking away to one side, so it has not been taken from the usual position at the top of Jacob’s Ladder.

However, there are 27 more St Helena pictures to be found on Jon’s website, including one of Governor Gurr at Plantation, and another of trainee mechanics Jamie and Dylan, working on an old truck at Prince Andrew School. We’re not told the names of the two girls snapped in their school uniforms.

In other pictures, Tara Thomas and musician Tom relax on the verandah at The Briars; Ivor Bowers, Fabian Peters and Cedrick Henry lean against a truck at Sandy Bay; Kerisha Stevens sits on a doorstep, toes turned inwards; Steve Biggs poses in an un-Saint-like cravat; ‘the only Frenchman on the island’, Michel Dancoisne-Martineau, stands in the garden at Longwood House; and Jimmy Thomas of Half Tree Hollow leans against a blue wall in a blue shirt, not looking blue at all.

There are landscapes too, and also quite a few pictures of cars. Jon had a gift of a subject in the 1930s Austin Ambassador that was used to drive King George VI and his family around the island in 1947. If Prince William ever turns up on the island, he won’t by riding in that.

Jon had an excellent guide to the island in Ed Thorpe, also a gifted photographer.

The Week: contempt and distrust over Gibraltar and Falklands

Senior Foreign Office staff had a contemptuous attitude towards the citizens of the only British Overseas Territory in mainland Europe, according to a very punchy column by Crispin Black in The Week. He recalls how he represented the Cabinet Office at meetings about Gibraltar, attended by FCO types. ‘Their preferred formula for the 30,000 inhabitants of the Rock of Gibraltar – of mixed British, Genoese, Maltese and Jewish descent, but fiercely loyal to Her Majesty – was “the sweepings of the Western Mediterranean”. They thought it frightfully clever.’

Black also says that Gibraltar and the Falklands cannot be handed over to Spain and Argentina because those countries cannot be trusted to run them properly; but China presented no such problem in the case of Hong Kong. ‘Both countries have spent considerable time, energy and sheer spite over the last half-century being beastly to the inhabitants of Gibraltar and the Falklands respectively. Nothing could be more self-defeating.

‘Environmental vandalism has reared its ugly head again in 2012 with Argentine plans to overfish the South Atlantic’s stocks of Ilex squid – just to spite the Falklanders who derive a handsome income from catching them when they migrate into their territorial waters.’

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