Back in February, I put up a post about the BBC’s question: “What is the image of the UK around the world?” The question seemed appropriate at the time, but in hindsight, the real question was “How does the UK see itself?”
The first rule of nation branding stems from the ancient aphorism know thyself. In America, we typically deal with the identity crisis that comes from a hyphen. African-American, Asian-American, Muslim-American. In Britain, one of the roots of the crisis seems to be the fact that it’s actually made up of separate countries. England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. When it comes to nationalism, the dividing factor is not merely historical, but geographical.
In watching the Games, however, we witnessed a new and potentially enduring unity for Great Britain. Danny Boyle’s fantastical and absurd Opening Ceremony wove together threads of British history. The roar that resonated throughout the Olympic stadium and beyond when GB athletes were announced came from Brits. Alistair Campbell, former press secretary and strategist for Prime Minister Tony Blair, described “the greatest night of all when in less than an hour, a black Somali asylum seeker, a mixed-race northerner and a tall, good-looking ginger man won athletics Golds, and you could almost hear the nation saying: ‘This is who we are.’”
The proof is in the polling (story continues after the jump):
I had the awesome privilege to go to the Games myself, and one moment that stood out from my time there was walking through the Underground and hearing one of the station managers announced over the PA system: “Proud to say, it’s another gold medal for Team GB! This one in dressage!” All around me people shared smiles, they clapped, they cheered. There was a startling unity to the moment. A shared British pride, tacitly agreeing, yes..“This is who we are.”