COULD stars such as boxer Lauren Price and middle distance ace Jake Hayward represent Wales in its own right, rather than Great Britain, at the Olympic Games?

It is a question that arouses passionate debate but often dismissed out of hand as an impossibility while Wales remains a part of the United Kingdom rather than an independent nation in its own right.

But an expert in using the power of sport to improve international relations thinks it is a question Wales should consider, even if eligibility is complex.

Gavin Price, who has previously worked in international trade for the UK and Australian governments and is an independent consultant focused on sports diplomacy and international cultural relations, believes it isn’t an issue Wales should just ignore.

“Personally, I would like to see Wales on a journey of at least exploring what it would take and what it would mean to be an independent, Olympic nation with a grown-up debate on the pros and cons of going it alone or remaining part of Team GB.”

Wales is familiar with the power of sport. Long before the country had its own government, it was represented on international playing fields in both football and rugby.

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Last year, Gavin, with colleague Dr Stuart Murray, of Bond University in Australia, produced a report for the British Council Wales, which said Wales should use sport to strengthen its place on the world stage.

They called on sporting organisations and the Government to work together to make Wales the first devolved nation with a sports diplomacy strategy which would see it join Australia, New Zealand and France as the only countries with strategies that recognise the importance of sport in building international relations and addressing issues such as social inclusion.

On Wednesday, August 4, they are hosting an online conference, which is open to the public, to look at how other countries are developing sports diplomacy.

Among the panel taking part in the discussion will be Silvija Mitevska, who is a former professional paraglider and the North Macedonian prime minister’s advisor on sport. She previously worked on sports diplomacy at the US State Department and Gavin worked with her to pitch to PM Zoran Zaev, how the country, previously known as Macedonia, could capitalise on its debut appearance at a major football championship at this summer’s Euro 2020 tournament.

 

Just helping to lead discussions is helping put Wales on the world stage, says Gavin, who is studying for a Phd in the topic through Bond University, where he worked while living in Australia.

“Wales seems to be leading the way. It has got a model and approach that the other UK nations, and even the UK, could learn from and the driver has been the British Council Wales,” says the Newport native. “Wales has a lot of sporting heritage, we should be using this to market ourselves to the world. Where else in Wales would there be a forum where you have a diversity of speakers from North Macedonia, Australia and Scotland?”

An event held last year to discuss the strategy was attended by representatives of United Nations cultural body Unesco, the EU Commission, Chelsea FC and Australian broadcasters among others.

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As for whether Wales could compete at an Olympic Games, Gavin’s personal view is he would like to see the issue examined properly, including acknowledging the support stars such as double gold medallist Jade Jones have received as part of the National Lottery-funded British Olympic team.

Doing so would require convincing the International Olympic Committee, whose rules state only nations recognised by the UN, that Wales should join non sovereign states such as Puerto Rico, which qualifies on ‘grandfather’ rights, at the Games.

They are questions worth considering, according to Gavin: “There are numerous benefits to maintaining the status quo, but Wales needs to take stock by carefully considering the question would we better placed on balance with full sporting sovereignty across all national sports teams and international competitions?

“No easy task, but as sport is intrinsic to our health and well-being, sense of cultural nationhood and global profile then I’d argue it is an important undertaking.”

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