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Team GB get ready for Olympic action

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Anna Thompson | 05:45 UK time, Friday, 12 February 2010

If Britain's Winter Olympians were unsure about the amount of support and exposure their medal exploits will attract, they were left in no doubt at a rousing reception held in their honour in downtown Vancouver on the eve of the Games.

There were the usual speeches, the announcement of the flagbearer and team captains and a meet and greet with HRH Princess Anne, the British Olympic Association president.

But a really nice touch was the fact more than 1,000 postcards of support have been collated from the worlds of sport, politics and entertainment, as well as the general public, to wish the athletes good luck as Britain aims for a record-breaking medal haul (the current record is four from the 1924 Games).

And 50 of the messages have found their way into a unique keepsake book, of which only 130 have been made for the 52 Winter Olympians and their coaches.

Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button wrote "wishing you all luck and I hope you reach your dreams" while multiple cycling gold medallist Sir Chris Hoy said: "Best of luck to you all - seize the chance to make your mark in history."

But I thought the sweetest - and the women's curling team agreed - were from schoolchildren who had taken the trouble to draw pictures and write to their heroes.

Shelley Rudman poses with a London taxiShelley Rudman will carry the flag for Great Britain at the opening ceremony sans taxi

British skeleton slider Kristan Bromley, whose fiancee Shelley Rudman will receive the original copies in recognition of being Britain's flagbearer at the opening ceremony, told me: "What a fantastic keepsake. A wonderful idea."

It was the brainchild of Hugh Chambers, the chief commercial officer at the BOA, who wanted the Winter Olympians not to feel like the second cousins of their summer counterparts and to show the level of support out there.

The reception, which featured a London black cab and a red Mini in the entrance to the posh hotel (there wasn't room for a double decker) as the BOA promoted the Best of British backing the Best of British, was really a chance to chat to the athletes when they are not in event mode.

Snowboarder Ben Kilner, who will compete in the halfpipe, looked awkward in his Team GB navy blue suit when he is more used to slouching around in jeans or his baggy boarding gear - and he was overwhelmed to meet Princess Anne, admitting he was unsure what to talk to her about and what the protocol was over asking her questions.

The short-track speed skating team were loving the occasion and prolific Tweeter Jon Eley (Jonnyboy77) wasted no time in telliing his followers: "Great night at the Team GB reception. Some really good support for all the team. Nice to see the future inlaws paul & sue @Sue7552 thanks!!"

For seasoned pro Bromley, who will be embarking on his third Winter Olympic campaign, he said the excitement was building.

"This is our job but there is no doubt the Winter Olympics are special and there is nothing like it in terms of getting amazing exposure for our sport. But when you come to things like this reception it is humbling."

They have had the emotion-stirring speeches and support - now it's down to them to deliver. Bring on the Games!


  • 1. At 1:36pm on 12 Feb 2010, steve wrote:

    Am looking forward to this Olympics though I now feel quite sad. I do hope that when Ms Rudman carries the flag out at the ceremony that it will be the right way up. This flag is upside down and i used to indicate a state of distress! Maybe we can get this right before 2012 or maybe nobody cares anymore?

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  • 2. At 1:56pm on 12 Feb 2010, cl438 wrote:

    I noticed also that our Union Flag was upside down, I nearly choked on my lunch. As a serving member of our Armed Forces I think it is a disgrace that this has gone unnoticed by any of the people surrounding Ms Rudman, I do not blame Ms Rudman as Im sure she has bigger things to worry about but surely someone is to blame.

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  • 3. At 2:19pm on 12 Feb 2010, Simon Goodwin wrote:

    Do you think that amongst all the organisers, the team and everyone else involved, someone could have seen to it that the Union flag was not carried upside down? I find this basic lack of education quite insulting. In my opinion, if you don’t know which way up to carry our flag, you shouldn’t be carrying it.

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  • 4. At 2:54pm on 12 Feb 2010, DameonsDevil wrote:

    Agree with above comments.

    However, i do wish to say good luck to all the British altheltes - do us proud and let's show them what we can do!!


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  • 5. At 3:09pm on 12 Feb 2010, Mike wrote:

    Great to see a woman carrying the flag, well done shelley rudman!

    On the subject of female sportsmen, I just read a really fasinating interview wth Jacqui Oatley, Match of the Day's first female commentator, here:

    A brilliatn read, definitely take a look!

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  • 6. At 3:28pm on 12 Feb 2010, Annette wrote:

    My husband, as an ex-member of Her Majesty's Armed Forces,is enraged to see the Olympic Flag Bearer, whilst expressing her pride at the honour, being blissfully unaware the she is carrying her Nation's Flag upside down. This is, of course a signal of distress, but I suspect it is done out of ignorance not intention. One would hope this will be corrected BEFORE the actual parade takes place.
    I would also wish to send the whole team our very best wishes and hope they are as successful as they can be!

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  • 7. At 3:57pm on 12 Feb 2010, Harry Webb wrote:

    I too instantantly noticed the flag was upsidedown. Over 50 years ago I learnt when I joined the Scouts how to fly the flag and also learnt that to fly it upside down meant you were in distress. Already the Ski governing body has had to be bailed out so I'm hoping the team don't get into distress. My main concern is, will anyone in the team know how to fly the flag and if not who will tell them in time before the ceremony?

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  • 8. At 6:10pm on 12 Feb 2010, CapitalDan wrote:

    Please watch this before reporting on the Winter Olympics further: Cheers.

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  • 9. At 6:13pm on 12 Feb 2010, CapitalDan wrote:

    Not sure Rudman should be flag bearer, she doesn't even know the correct way round for it to go!

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  • 10. At 9:26pm on 12 Feb 2010, Allie Fleming wrote:

    It does not matter who should be flag bearer because what mattersmost is that our brilliant Winter Olympic athletes do this country proud in Vancouver. Good luck Team GB! Do your best, we are behind you all the way ;-)

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  • 11. At 11:20am on 22 Feb 2010, Simon Goodwin wrote:

    I disagree with the comments that the British Olympic team are ‘doing us proud’. Frankly, having seen some of their performances, I feel quite embarrassed that we are even taking part. Let’s face it, Britain’s track record in the winter Olympics is nothing short of abysmal and doesn't look like it's about to change. I think we should be seriously considering whether these athletes are indeed the best we have and if they aren’t, why they are there at all. We need to drop the “it’s not the winning, it’s the taking part that counts” philosophy, start competing to win. Anyone not up to that challenge shouldn’t be there.

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