Why they switch loyalties

I refer to the commentary by Sumana Rajarethnam (Today, 12 Aug 2008). Mr Rajarethnam finds it hard to imagine that a Chinese athlete would don a Korean jersey. Dang Yeo Seo is in fact one such person who performed fairly well in this Olympics.

Mr Rajarethnam has also shown us why we should be more understanding of atheletes who have a variety of good reasons not to compete for their country of origin. Zola Budd would not have been able to compete had she not switched nationalities. Yes, we emphatise and we understand. But should we therefore feel proud of her if we were British? Why should we? She was British for merely a few months when she competed for Britain in the Olympics. Why should anyone who instantly becomes a citizen, instantly deserve the adulation of his or her new countrymen or women?

Adulation is something you cannot command or will. A hero is a hero simply because of who he is in the eyes of his worshippers. If people see him as a hero, you can’t change that. If people don’t see him as a hero, you can’t change that too.

What about the atheletes bought by oil rich Gulf states? Yes, medals were bought. But do we buy their loyalties? When they are competing hard to win those medals, how do you know if deep inside, they are competing more for themselves or for their newly adopted country? What about the footballer Agu we bought? He took the money and left. You get what you pay for – mercenaries.

I understand and accept that you can’t go against the tide of mercenary athletes. But I cannot understand why anyone should be made to look upon them as heroes.

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