Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt has been bombarded with disapproving tweets after suggesting the EU could sweep the Olympics if European athletes competed for the bloc and combined their medals.
The former European Parliament Brexit chief mused on Thursday that the EU would dominate the international games if Olympians from across the bloc shared their success with Brussels.
“Fun fact: EU combined has more gold medals than US or China #TokyoOlympics I’d love to see the EU flag next to the national on athletes’ clothes. Our identity is layered - we’re proud Italians, Latvians, Germans, Slovenians... and Europeans. Our sports should reflect that !” Verhofstadt tweeted.
Fun fact: EU combined has more gold medals than US or China #TokyoOlympics— Guy Verhofstadt (@guyverhofstadt) August 5, 2021
I’d love to see the EU flag next to the national on athletes’ clothes.
Our identity is layered - we’re proud Italians, Latvians, Germans, Slovenians... and Europeans. Our sports should reflect that !????????????
But his modest proposal wasn’t exactly a crowd-pleaser.
Many were quick to point out that Verhofstadt was trying to have it both ways: by allowing EU states to compete individually but also as a bloc, the union would have a huge pool of athletes that it could use to rack up its medal count.
“Great idea, you can be the one to tell thousands of athletes they have not qualified as there is only one EU Olympic team, not 27 national teams (the real reason the cumulative total is high),” read one snarky reply.
Although things would look different if there were only a single EU team instead of 27 national teams given that there would be fewer athletes from the EU in that case.— Alain Deckers (@Alain_Deckers) August 5, 2021
I think you said this 5 years ago as well. What you ignore, of course, is that the EU would not be permitted the same number of athletes that the member states currently supply. If you want an EU team, that's fine, but it won't be able to enter 27x as many people as US or China.— Philip Bean (@PhilipBean17) August 5, 2021
Pointing to the same discrepancy, numerous others questioned the veracity of Verhofstadt’s boast.
So 27 wealthy nations have more gold medals than 1 wealthy nation? I’d have thought that would have been a given to be honest.— the voice of reason (@thevoic98740450) August 5, 2021
At least one Twitter user was more than happy to brag about how post-Brexit Britain was outperforming all of the top EU member states.
Thanks to Brexit we're beating the rest of the EU. pic.twitter.com/OwfcDsrNos— Frtl Englbrt (@fartelengelbert) August 5, 2021
Others claimed that Verhofstadt was advocating for a European superstate. The interpretation received pushback from those who noted that the MEP was acknowledging national as well as European identity.
He's literally talking about national and European identity in one tweet. Learn to understand text. https://t.co/gMXsFkICYx— Ackreti ???????????????? (@ackreti) August 5, 2021
One reply joked that maybe NATO should tally its gold medals.
Despite the criticisms, there were still some who fully supported the Belgian politician’s idea.
it would be wonderful????????????????????????????????????— marilux74???????? (@mariatrulli) August 5, 2021
Verhofstadt is known for his zealous advocacy for EU federalism. He made headlines with his often-provocative comments about Britain’s successful referendum to leave the bloc in 2016. Recently he has taken aim at Hungary for its stance on LGBTQ issues, warning that the EU “has a dictatorship growing inside of it.”
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