Scotland Post Olympics Update

The Beijing Olympics are over...I love the Olympics so much I am in mourning. Sad, sad, Piping Girl. So very sad.

BUT I was so pleased to see how prominent Scotland ended up being at the Beijing Olympics. And I don't mean just the athletes.

Opening Ceremony-What's That Sound??
I was watching the Opening Ceremony marathon and started when, as the first of the European athlete's marched in, the bagpipes struck in and began playing Scotland the Brave. About every 15-20 minutes they'd come in again and play a bunch of tunes. The silly American commentators never said a word about them, and there was no footage of them either, so I thought, maybe this was where China decided to save a dime and it was a recording.

But later, I was excited to find out that it was an actual bagpipe band. And an amateur band at that! And those stupid commentators went on and on about all sorts of random facts, you'd think they would've commented on the awesome musicians playing their hearts out on the biggest stage in the world. At the very least, they could have given them a little camera love.

It turns out it was the Mains of Fintry Pipe Band from Dundee, Scotland.

It turns out the Chinese were looking for music that represented Europe and they decided on the bagpipes! They heard the Mains of Fintry Band in France and were impressed enough to invite them to play at the opening ceremony. Apparently, at first they thought it was a joke, so they didn't reply to the invitation at first. But when they accepted, they were sworn to secrecy for the past year. What a secret!!

I found this story to be particularly inspirational because I play in a very amateur band. It's good to see these kinds of bands get their chance to shine in the sun too. Granted, the Olympics were very close to World Bagpipe Championships, so perhaps a higher graded band would've turned down an invitation, but I have yet to read anywhere that the Chinese extended an invitation to a higher grade band. Good on you Mains of Fintry!!

Scottish Athlete's Find Success!!
So, the athlete's that I featured in my previous post fared really well at the Olympics. I did watch some of the cycling events, and Chris Hoy found great success. He won a gold medal in the Sprint, Team Sprint, and the Keirin events. In fact, he was so successful that he was honored by the British contingent at the Closing Ceremony where he carried the flag for the most successful British team in 100 years.

Lee McConnell also did well. In the 400m she made it to the semifinals where she ultimately placed 19th in the semifinal round.

Other Scots who fared well were:

David Florence: earned a silver in the Slalom Canoe event.

Katherine Granger: earned a silver in Rowing Quadruple Skull.

One of the best Olympic-Scotland stories I've run across is about a guy named Andrew Aitkens who was practicing his bagpipes outside an (unbeknownst to him) secure area in Beijing. He was practicing up for a charity walk along the Great Wall. A small crowd gathered around him and than all of a sudden a bunch of police cars pulled up. The poor guy almost got arrested because the Chinese thought his bagpipes were a weapon! Thankfully a bystander stepped in and explained that it was a musical instrument, and (at least in this moment in time) not an instrument of war. I guess they don't have too many bagpipe players in China!

Pipe on!


Scotland in the 2008 Beijing Olympics

I dearly love the Olympics, I should've put an olympic countdown clock up on this blog now that I think about it. So I thought it would be interesting to do a little digging into the history of Scotland's Olympic athletes and look at their prospects for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.

The Summer Olympics started in 1896 but the first Scottish medals didn't come until 1900 when they won silver and bronze of course. (Golf is no longer an Olympic sport today by the way.) Their first gold came in a big way in 1908 when 5 Scots brought home the gold in steeplechase, 400m, coxless fours (a rowing event), water polo, and 12 metre class (sailing). And home wasn't far away as the 1908 Olympics were in London.

Since than, there's been a Scot who has medaled in just about every Olympics. The only one's they didn't medal in were 1932 and 1936. There were even some Scots on the 1920 tug of war team that brought home the gold...obviously no longer an Olympic sport, but it brought a smile to my face :)

There are many notable Scottish Olympic athletes. Track star Eric Liddell of Chariots of Fire fame of course. Shirley Robertson picked up 2 gold medals for sailing in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics, the only Scotswoman to have ever won 2 gold medals. And Rodney Pattison is the most decorated Scottish Olympian, winning 2 golds and 1 silver medal between 1968-1972.

Scotland has always competed as part of Great Britain's Olympic team. But it seems there was some effort by Scotland to bring their own seperate Olympic team to the 2008 summer games. They do have their own parliament after all but they are still not entirely independent from England. It seems that the issue was brought up because Scotland's Football (aka. soccer) Association didn't want to participate in a British soccer team for the Olympics.

Former British Olympic Association chairman Sir Craig Reedie had this to say about the whole situation, "The International Olympic Committee charter says that to take part in an Olympic Games you must have a national Olympic committee. You only get a national Olympic committee when it's granted to you by the IOC. When Scotland is an independent nation, I am 99.999% sure the IOC will grant them an NOC, but not before then. Until then, no Scottish athlete is disadvantaged by the current situation."

The official website for Great Britain's 2008 Summer Olympic team is a bit confusing. You can search their athlete's by country, but the results include both country of birth and country of residence. So while they list 25 athlete's as being from Scotland only 18 were actually born in Scotland. Two were born in other countries but basically grew up in Scotland. Mostly men (there are only 5 women) Scotland is represented in swimming, canoe, rowing, shooting, cycling, steeplechase, track, tennis, kayak, triatholon, and field hockey. Their dominant sport is swimming where they have 5 athlete's competing.

Scottish athlete's to watch for seem to be Chris Hoy, 9 time world champion in cycling and Lee McConnell who runs the 400m has also picked up a lot of press.

I'll mostly be cheering on Team USA but the beauty of the Olympics is the international stage and being able to cheer on international players so if I recognize a Scot I'll definitely give them a shout out.

Pipe on!
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