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Olympic News

Plastic Brits? They were the secret of our success


More than a third of Britain's Olympic medal-winners were born abroad, or had a foreign parent or grandparent, reflecting the nation's rapidly changing demographic make-up, according to an analysis for The Independent.

Immigration had a part to play in at least 24 of the 65 medals claimed by Team GB in its most successful Games for more than a century. Three of the biggest heroes had foreign forebears. Mo Farah, who captured the 5,000m and 10,000m double, was born in Somalia, heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis has a Jamaican father and cycling time trial winner Bradley Wiggins was born in Belgium and had an Australian father.

Less well-known is that Andy Murray's silver-medal winning doubles partner, Laura Robson, was born in Australia of Australian parents, or that Peter Charles, part of the team that delivered the first show-jumping gold medal since 1952, originally represented Ireland because of his Irish mother.

Sixteen medal-winners have close family links to Nigeria, including 400m silver medal-winner Christine Ohoruogu, whose parents moved to Britain from the west African country in 1980, and boxing bronze medal-winner Anthony Ogogo, whose father is Nigerian.

Laura Bechtolsheimer, who picked up a gold and a bronze in the dressage competition, was born in Germany, while high-jump bronze medallist Robert Grabarz has spoken of his pride at his Polish heritage – his grandfather was Polish-born.

The analysis, carried out by the think-tank British Future, found immigration contributed to at least 11 gold medals, three silvers and 10 bronzes.

Sunder Katwala, its director, said: "The record-breaking achievements of Team GB athletes have reflected an inclusive and authentic pride in the shared, multi-ethnic society that we are today.

"It's a different British Olympic team from the last London Games of 1948. Then, the popular sprinter McDonald Bailey from Trinidad stood out of the team photo as the only black athlete in a sea of white faces. In 2012, Team GB has changed because Britain has changed.

"Our athletes, selected by fierce meritocratic competition, offer an everyday snapshot of the Britain that we have become, just as the volunteers and the crowds did."