Thursday, 30 August 2012

Why I like Tom Daley's tattoo

The nation's favourite 18 year old Olympian Tom Daley has been in the news recently for getting some ink. He has commemorated his bronze medal for the 10m platform dive by getting the Olympic rings tattooed on his upper bicep. Good for him. Like the unwritten rule of only tattooists getting tattoo machines on them, it would sort of be cheating if non-Olympians walked around with the five rings permanently etched on their skin. You know when you see an Olympic ring tattoo that person has represented their country in the greatest sporting competition in the world.

There have been a range of articles this summer which have commented on the significant number of athletes who arrived in London wearing their tattoos as well as their national colours with pride. A combination of two sets of circumstances lead to me noticing and then begin counting. The first is that I spent 32 out of 48 hours recovering from a music festival in front of the excellent BBC coverage of the 'Lympics. Most of this time there was either a snoring boyfriend or kitten curled up next to me.

The second is that I found myself dipping into - my favourite procrastination guilty pleasure. The author had posted a photo of a Russian gymnast with a particularly bold set of butterflies going up her back and down one thigh. From that moment on I was tattoo spotting.
I counted at least eighteen tattoos on athletes representing their countries within the first six hours. Hours 15 to 21 were also productive as I flicked between the women's beach volleyball and the hockey, the tally getting ever bigger. From the small and delicate to huge solid pieces of tribal, it's a statement of fact from my highly unscientific research, that this was the most tattooed Olympiad to date.

I remember Olympic champions from previous competitions marking their victories and participation with tattoos. I remember the men's 400m relay team from Atlanta in 1996 photographed in an issue of Cosmo. The entire relay team naked save for flags and tattoos. Stuck in my memory somehow. Bit creepy considering I was 12. Where did I get a copy of Cosmo from at that age?

My own tattoos have taught me that even the most disparaging of critics will attempt to see past their own prejudices if you have an explanation for the tattoo. Tattoos are individual, unique and personal, and the motivations behind them equally so. Saying that, I am happy to talk about mine, as are a number of other of my tattooed friends.

The decision to get a tattoo isn't one that should be taken lightly and we are often asked about the 'meaning' of each piece. It's worth pointing out that not everyone and not every tattoo has a significant meaning - as I said unique. The motivation behind one of mine was definitely just that I liked it and wanted it. But for the most part I can explain the rationale behind each tattoo.

What has struck me is that once I saw the stories about Daley's tattoo I really expected there to be backlash or heavy criticism. Especially when the first place the story is cited on Google is the Daily Mail. But like the absence of heavy criticism on the previous articles about tattooed Olympians, the British public doesn't seem to want to criticise Tom for his tatt. In some ways it's completely understandable why he'd want to do this.

Dare I posit that we have reached an era of tattoo normalization? I don't know if this occurrence is because we are all proud of his achievements and hold a soft spot for him. Or whether it's because an 18 year old marking a point in his life with a permanent reminder is now more commonplace. Whether this achievement is winning a bronze medal or something else.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


  1. the girl with the dragon tattoo was really scary novel but i guess all the girls having such tattoos should not be considered as criminal :) this site offers you very attractive tattoos for you.

  2. Elizabeth Shim joined as supervisor blogger in 2011.