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A pinnacle of sporting prowess. An athlete, the evolved civil sheen of an ancient gladiator, stands before the podium, adrenaline having now mastered all pertinent functions. The warrior's name is called and involuntarily, through the fog, your aching muscles transport you to the podium, either side of you languish the vanquished. Amid the slurry of their exhaustion whisper callous sprites, jibing: "if only I wasn't a second off," "or I should have trained harder." All this dallies behind a wry smile of joy at being better than the rest, yet one stands above. The strings of music sound, instantly chiming with every belief, ordeal and struggle you've ever faced, the eroding mound of of gladiator slips into emotion...
... An over elaborate assessment of a medal ceremony there, but one with threads of a stronger undercurrent. Having just seen a medal ceremony and the opening chords of Flower of Scotland march strident on the ears, borne by assertive bagpipes, it got me wondering something, the validity of national identity in our modern world. The Scottish National Anthem certainly managed to extricate heavy emotion from the gold medalist. But how often is nationalism seen and felt beyond the first throes of a sporting victory?
Of course, for Scotland this is a more vital ideal than it has been since 1603 or 1707 (the former date: King James VI of Scotland became James I of England. The latter date: The Act of Union was passed, creating Great Britain). North of the border, in little under two months, Scots will go to the polls to determine their future, remain in the Union or become an independent Scotland. As an Englishman, I am indifferent, what the Scots want to do is the will of the Scots I feel (I only wish the English could have a referendum on whether to put Cameron and co. on a one way ship out of Dover!) But the creation of a place on this island where I may need my passport to venture into from 2016 is a tantalising and confusing prospect in equal proportions.
Borders are, after all, are intangible. Yet their significance is the antithesis of that. Some nations (USA and Canada, Belgium and The Netherlands, England, Wales and Scotland in fact) are traversed as easily as a walk or drive across, and I hope it remains so in the event of a Yes. Yet a silent, impassive, non-existent and arbitrarily agreed line speaks volumes. In two years, it could alter the landscape and culture of the UK irrevocably, right now, it is forcing horrendous acts of war by Israel on Gaza.
Should we know better in this day and age to subscribe to borders? In innocuous terms, the answer might be yes. They are a necessary evil perhaps, carved up pieces of earth that have been in the past (and remain so in the Middle East and Ukraine) as tectonic and volcanic as the rock beneath. They can mark the administrative and governmental areas of a place (bureaucracy has it's place, unfortunately) and their place in the harmless sportsmanship of the Commonwealth Games. It instills the memories of an athlete as a talisman of the people cheering them on, delivers to people memories of their childhood, heritage and the legacy of a will, usually embodied by personal friends, family and the locale of their past. Usually, the political endeavours of their leaders are overlooked in the face of individual past, yet these shortcomings are the residual consequence of the notion of borders, the human/Darwinian perception of territory and Alpha dominance.
Theoretically, could an event like the Commonwealth Games be staged on an individual basis? Tennis Grand Slams are the home of individual glory, but something like the Commonwealth and Olympic Games would be more convoluted. A trifling reason for borders. Yet this is what they should be, a trifling matter. The spirit of the Commonwealth Games should be one of unity as opposed to division.