Patriot games: why the flag of an Olympian can mean everything or nothing

Emigrants competing for their new countries, Irish sporting heroes of old having to represent Britain, the complexities of being Northern Irish; the Olympics have always been political despite the ban on protests such as taking the knee

25th July, 2021
Patriot games: why the flag of an Olympian can mean everything or nothing
Kellie Harrington and Brendan Irvine lead Team Ireland while holding the tricolour at the Tokyo Olympic Games Opening Ceremony on Friday. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

Rory McIlroy is going to the Olympic Games in Tokyo and, for once, the flag that will appear beside the golfer’s name on leaderboards will be that of the tricolour of the Republic of Ireland, not that of Northern Ireland.

He clearly doesn’t seem too comfortable with this, but then he never has been with the issue of identity politics in Ireland. He is part of a sizeable new generation of Catholics (and...

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