By Duncan Mackay

Team GBMarch 10 - A new row is threatening to engulf the British Olympic Association (BOA) after complaints from Northern Ireland's Sports Minister Nelson McCausland that "Team GB" is discriminatory and should be changed to "Team UK".

The BOA, currently at odds with London 2012 over how much money they should receive from next year's Olympics, have in recent Games established "Team GB" as a powerful marketing brand, even though its official title is "Team GB and Northern Ireland".

McCausland claims that this is unfair to athletes from Northern Ireland and that their contribution is being overlooked.

At the last Olympics in Beijing Britain's medallists included cyclist Wendy Houvenaghel, from County Londonderry, who won a silver medal in the individual pursuit.

"The current naming and branding of the team has the potential to create the perception that Northern Ireland is not part of the British Olympic team," said McCausland.

"However as we are all aware, Northern Ireland athletes have contributed significantly to the Olympic team's success, particularly in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, and this should be recognised in the name and branding.

"Indeed, a change in branding, such as to 'Team UK', would be entirely consistent with the current title for our UK-wide sports body, UK Sport."

McCausland has lobbied Britain's Sport and Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson on the affair and he has promised that the Government will write to the BOA to ask them to consider changing the name.

The topic of Northern Ireland's role in the Olympic Movement has always been clouded in confusion and controversy with athletes from the country being able to opt to compete for either Britain or the Republic of Ireland.

In the build-up to London's successful bid to host the 2012 Olympics a row erupted between the BOA and the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) when the British wanted to include the words 'and Northern Ireland' in their athletes' agreement for the 2004 Games in Athens.

That angered Pat Hickey, the President of the OCI, who claimed that they had jursidiction for all 32 counties on the island and it took pressure from Downing Street to resolve the issue and get the BOA to drop the clause.

It was former Irish International Olympic Committee member and IOC President Lord Killanin who ensured that the OCI was responsible for all 32 counties on the island.

The OCI charter gives it full responsibility for all of Ireland was agreed by former IOC President Avery Brundage and then re-enforced by Killanin when he became President.

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