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The new Team GB flag trashes everything that’s iconic about the Union Jack

Official Team GB Union Jack Large Supporters Flag
Design agency Thisaway has rebranded the Union flag to make it more 'relevant'

Things you will you never hear a branding and design agency awarded the Team GB Olympic kit job say:

  • If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

  • Britain has one of the most beautiful and recognisable flags in the world

  • Red, white and blue – how can you possibly go wrong?

  • Avoid change for change’s sake!

  • Patriotic feeling runs high at the Olympics, stick with traditional stuff everyone knows and loves

  • What would the late Queen have thought of our exciting ideas?

None of the above entered the chia-seed porridge that passes for brains at Thisaway in Bath when they received the commission from the British Olympic Association (BOA). “We guide brands through bold change!” boasts the website of the design agency. I bet you do. The bigger question is why the BOA thought that bold change was necessary when British athletes have always worn British colours and British symbols with such pride?

Clues are to be found amid the word salad on the Thisaway website. “Team GB is a much-loved brand,” it says. “But, whilst sentiment is strong and engagement is high during each summer or winter Games, the brand needed to work harder to drive increased relevance outside of Games time, particularly with younger audiences. The brand needed to evolve strategically and visually. To develop a clear and compelling purpose and promise that could maintain the DNA of what has made it so successful, but also resonate deeper, across multiple channels, with athletes and audiences alike.”

This is proof of the Third Pearson Theorem: anyone using “DNA” outside the context of biology is guaranteed to be an absolute tosser (of word salad).

On and on the creatives (you can almost see their architects’ Statement Specs from here) witter: “Ahead of Paris 2024, the BOA were looking to maintain and grow the brand’s profile among fans of all ages and backgrounds, strengthen its relationship with sponsors and commercial partners, and make sure it would be fit for today’s modern, digital-first communication landscape.”

Official Team GB Union Jack Large Supporters Flag
'Everything that is perfect, strong and iconic about the Union Jack has either been lost or trashed'

I don’t know about the digital-first communication landscape, but the flag they came up with is horrible. An abomination. Imagine Cath Kidston had an opium dream in Carnaby Street circa 1963. Actually, please don’t. This is what the deluded designers call a desire to “push the iconic red white and blue as far as we could”.

Our beloved flag is remade in clashing swatches: orange stripes on hot pink diagonals, blue zig-zags on turquoise, whimsical red dots, purple squiggles like a child’s drawing of a migraine.

Everything that is perfect, strong and iconic about the Union Jack has either been lost or trashed. The red cross of St George for the Kingdom of England (which included Wales in 1801), the white saltire of St Andrew for Scotland and the red saltire of St Patrick to represent Ireland (the Republic is no longer part of the UK, although Northern Ireland certainly is); one of the most stirring and uplifting national emblems you could possibly imagine turned into a haberdasher’s rummage box.

So far, the psychedelic new colour scheme only features on flags, bunting and water bottles, on sale in the official Team GB shop. The BOA has been quick to respond to public uproar, saying that our athletes in Paris “will wear the Union Jack as normal”. (We shall see how true that is when the official Adidas kit is unveiled on April 17. I fear the worst.)

Most Brits will agree with Fatima Whitbread, a winner of bronze and silver medals for us at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics, who told GB News: “I’m absolutely disgusted to think they’ve done it. Let’s face it, it represents our late Queen, it represents everything that embraces what’s good about our country as years have gone by. No way should they have just gone ahead and changed the country’s symbolic colours. It is about national pride and unity.”

Spot on, Fatima. Which is why fashionable liberals are so desperate to change it, I think. They can’t acknowledge there’s anything good about our country, so it has to morph into something else. Even the chummy “Team GB” still grates with me. What was wrong with Great Britain or United Kingdom?

If you read further into the Thisaway manifesto, you find that the design company even thinks there is something suspect about world-class athletic achievement.

“Elite sport, by its very nature, can be elitist,” opine the geniuses in Bath. Gosh, who would have thought it. “Elevating sportsmen and women into superhuman stars. Putting them on a pedestal, out of reach from everyone else… and that’s why Team GB is different. At the heart of the brand has always been a simple but compelling observation: that when it’s at its best, Team GB helps and facilitates ordinary people to achieve extraordinary things… With a simple evolution of the brand’s existing slogan “Believe in Extraordinary”, we’ve moved it away from an athlete-focused rallying call and into an inclusive and inspirational articulation of the new purpose.”

Whatever you do, folks, don’t dwell on those astonishing men and women currently driving themselves 24/7 to the limits of personal performance – Faster, Higher, Stronger! – so they can represent the UK with distinction at the Olympic Games in a few months. Let’s pretend it’s all about slobs on the sofa thinking they can be Dina Asher-Smith.

Well, we can’t. That’s politically correct fiction. Asher-Smith only got to be a star in the 100 and 200 metres through huge personal sacrifice combined with innate genius and fast-twitch muscles. As a British Olympian, she and her team-mates are part of a glorious elite, not some dumbed-down PE diversity project to make lesser mortals feel good about themselves.

Young people don’t need a digital-first communication landscape or some psychedelic, cutesy Union Jack tribute act to make them proud of their country. A flag that has lifted British hearts for more than 200 years, and athletes who aspire to drape themselves in red, white and blue, needs no improvement.

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