Almanack: Little support for Europe United

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE red tape flew last week as a crack team of sports bureaucrats descended on Brussels to combat the EC's dotty plans to abolish national sports teams. 'The whole psychological approach of the Community is to see differences disappear, to see complete unity,' says an ashen-faced David Will, a British vice-president of Fifa. But football's top file-shufflers are standing firm: 'Sport in general is totally dependent on competition, totally dependent on maintaining differences,' he declares.

Surely not even the most depressed of England fans would rather support a Euroteam than their own nation; and the prospect of the same principle being applied to teams for the Olympics annoys Jacques Rogge, head of the European Association of National Olympic Committees. 'Sport has always been based on nationality,' Jacques steams, 'and we don't want to sacrifice that concept. There will be no common European Community team.'

The irate official went on to claim that the EC had tried to use sport to build brand awareness, as the business phrase has it, and with limited success. 'All they did was try to use sport for their image building,' Rogge claims. In 1987, the EC called on the member national Olympic Committees to join together and send one team to the 1988 Seoul Olympics. The request was refused. Later they asked for dual identity with an EC flag alongside the flag of the member states. Again federations refused to go along.

Frustrated, at the Albertville and Barcelona 1992 Olympics the EC paid 14.6 million ecus (dollars 16.5m) for 'exposure' during the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games. The EC's Court of Auditors subsequently found that it was money ill-spent: 'The idea of dual loyalty on the part of the athletes and of using the Community flag when the medals were being awarded came to nothing,' the Auditors' report said.