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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Flag-waving


UK Supporters in hot tub


I've been home and busy for three weeks after a fantastic shoot with nine other photographers and nine models, in a luxury house we rented in Yorkshire. One of the scenarios we shot for stock use was flag-waving by supporters - on the couch, in the hot-tub, in the field. Only now, when I'm looking over my final versions of shots, with the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony due to start, am I really taking in how much people enjoy waving those flags.

National pride is double-edged and every group creates exclusion. Maybe, because of my migrant background, I'm too aware of this and of the historical abuse of national symbols, and maybe I should look more at my own photos. People like waving flags, they like supporting their team and it's all fun.
French supporters

Of course, the fun turns sour quickly if you're on the women's football team of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and they've introduced your team with a video on the big screen showing the flag of the Republic of Korea. North/South/Democratic or not - easy mistake? Not if it's your flag and your team. Imagine you're playing for Wales in the USA and up goes the St George Cross. My American readers have no idea the outrage that would be felt. You have to be inside the group to feel it. And there's no doubt the Koreans felt it! No way were they playing with that flag on the screen above them.The first cock-up of the 2012 Olympics (as far as I know) is over waving the wrong flag.

Scotland the Brave


There will be more and bigger cock-ups as the adrenalin flows and the cultures clash. But there will also be those stories of personal triumph and tragedy that touch the soft spot in us all. I was moved by the successes of 'British boys' in the Tour de France but interested in Wiggins' forthright response to (French) interviewer that he had done it for himself, not for Britain. I am currently being congratulated by everyone from the doctor to the cheesemonger in my small French village for 'my' success in the Tour de France and although I'm happy to take the credit and bask in the glow, that means I'll also take the blame if a British athlete is a 'bad sport' (especially in any activity involving a French person). I hope that the French insistence on how 'English' fair play is, will be born out by events.

I suspect I will be spitting at every mention of the word 'English' by the end of a hundred French commentaries on UK competitors,  as will every good Welshperson - or Irishperson or Scot.
Wales supporters

I won't be waving any national flags but I do support Wales, Scotland, UK, France, England as teams - in that order. My own brand of flag-waving is reserved for the personal successes and moments of cameraderie and support, both between team-mates and across barriers. I know someone who has reached the team for the opening ceremony, after a tense time as reserve,  and I know that just being there is a special moment for him. I'm waving my flag for him, and the others in that Opening Ceremony, who had to apply for the privilege and are all good at something in the sports world. I'm waving my flag for that friend.

 What I love best in competitions are the friendships and support that happens. Which brings me back to the shoot I mentioned at the start. Ten photographers, who will all be competing to sell our photos, and who all helped each other to achieve results none of us would have got alone. Now I'm really waving my flag. Let the Games begin. Or rather the J.O. as we call them here in France, making them sound like a sexy film star.

Parents asleep while supporter cheers

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