Saturday, August 18, 2012

Somaliland’s Own Mo Farah Clinches Olympic Immortality

Mohamed “Mo” Farah won a second gold medal for Team Great Britain in the London Olympics on August 11th, adding the 5,000-meter run to the 10,000-meter run he won August 4th (as reported last week in this blog).

Boris Johnson does the Mobot, as Sebastian Coe looks on.
Careful, you might mess up your hair.
Moreover, his signature victory dance, dubbed the “Mobot,” with bent arms pointing at the top of the head to indicate a letter M, has become one of the enduring images of these Olympics, with Usain Bolt of Jamaica and London’s mayor Boris Johnson both adopting it for cameras on memorable occasions (and let’s not even get into the “Mo Farah running away from things” meme).

Mo Farah and Usain Bolt
Farah, who was born in Mogadishu, capital of the Somali Republic, to a Somali mother and a United Kingdom–born Somali-British father, is a U.K. citizen, and spent his childhood in the Republic of Djibouti but considers the de facto independent but internationally unrecognized Republic of Somaliland his ancestral home.  Farah has diverted much of his time and wealth since his rise to athletic stardom to charitable aid for his impoverished and diplomatically isolated homeland; he even took the opportunity, as he met with David Cameron, the U.K.’s prime minister, to press a case for addressing hunger in the Horn of Africa.

Mo Farah at No. 10 Downing Street,
with Pelé, Brazil’s vice president Michel Temer, and David Cameron
Through his career, however, there has never been an indication, as there is with some other athletes from separatist regions, that he itched to wave the flag of his unrecognized nation of origin.  (However, Farah’s superstardom can only raise international awareness of Somaliland, which is a good thing.)  For Farah, the only flag-related kerfuffle of these Games—and here at Springtime of Nations we just live for flag kerfuffles—came when he quite awkwardly and publicly urged his wife, Tania Farah, to stash away a Union Jack that she was ready to wave when he won his first gold.  It had “Fly Mo” written on it, and observers speculated that Farah’s skittishness was due to the flag being controversial with Olympic organizers on the grounds that the terse slogan was also the name of a British lawnmower company which—horror of horrors!—was not an official Olympic sponsor.  Fly Mo may not be getting any free advertising out of the Olympics, but this summer the Somaliland brand has just skyrocketed in respectability.

Farah was the first Briton to win the 5,000-meter and only the fourth Olympian ever to win both events in the same Olympiad.  There is also now talk of his receiving a knighthood.  (Read the congratulation message from Somaliland’s president, Ahmed Mahamoud Silanyohere.)

[Also, for those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with a forthcoming book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas to be published by Auslander and Fox under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements, Independence Struggles, Breakaway Republics, Rebel Provinces, Pseudostates, Puppet States, Tribal Fiefdoms, Micronations, and Do-It-Yourself Countries, from Chiapas to Chechnya and Tibet to Texas.  Look for it in spring 2013.  I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news.]

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