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Friday, July 27, 2012

The Olympics and Flags


The 2012 Summer Olympic Games,officially the Games of the XXX Olympiad, also known informally as London 2012, are here and the  Olympic fever that grips the World to last until 12 August 2012. It’s now high time  to find the pivotal role FLAGS play in many ways in  Olympiad since its inception in 1896.
India’s Flag Bearer in today’s opening ceremony is wrestler Sushil Kumar. ‘Just representing the country in the Olympics is a huge opportunity for any Indian athlete. But to lead the Indian contingent at the opening ceremony will be a dream come true’, says Sushil Kumar.
Earlier on Sunday 22 July 2012 at a glittering ceremony Indian National flag was raised by a British Army officer at the Athletes’ Village in London.

The first opening  ceremonies were held during the 1908 Olympic Games at White City in London.  At the London Games, for the first time, athletes march into the stadium behind their respective Nations' Flags.
The fourth Olympic Games in 1908 were  the  most contentious in history. Held at a new stadium in the Shepherds Bush section of London, the  Games were played out under continually rainy skies and suffered from endless arguments between British officials and many of the other countries involved–especially the United States.
 When the U.S. delegation noticed that there was no American flag among the national flags decorating the stadium for the opening ceremonies. U.S. flag bearer and discus champion Martin Sheridan responded by refusing to dip the Stars and Stripes when he passed King Edward VII's box in the parade of athletes. "This flag dips to no earthly king,” Sheridan said. And it hasn't since. The Americans, at least, got to march with their flag. 
  Passions ran high when Finland, then ruled by Russia was not allowed to fly the Finnish National Flag. They were Informed that they would have to parade under their colonizers, the Tsarist Russian flag, the furious Finns elected to march with no flag at all.

At the first modern Olympic Games at Athens in 1896, Australia won two gold medals, but no Australian flag was available for the victory ceremony. Flustered officials did their best – they raised the flag of Austria ! Four years later in Paris, an Australian victory was recognized by raising the British Union Jack. The Australian National Flag did not appear until 1908 London Olympic.
During the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, the procession of athletes is always led by the Greek team in memory of the ancient Olympic Games which took place in that country, followed by all the other teams in alphabetical order (in the language of the hosting country), except for the last team which is always the team of the hosting country.
In 1928 Amsterdam Games for the first time, the parade of nations started with Greece, which holds the origins of the Olympics, and ended with the host country, a tradition which continues today  
Yugoslavia, perhaps is the first country to issue the Olympic Flag in full colour
The Olympic Flag, which flies in the main stadium and all other venues of the Games, is white with five interlaced rings in the center. The  rings of the Flag represent the five continents. They are interlaced to show the universality of Olympism and the meeting of the athletes of the world during the Olympic Games. On the flag, the rings appear on a white background. Combined in this way,the six colours of the flag (blue, yellow, black, green, red and white) represent all nations. It is a misconception, therefore, to believe that each of the colours corresponds to a certain continent.
Pierre de Coubertin, the father  of the modern Olympic Games, explains the meaning of the flag :
“ The Olympic flag … has a white background, with five interlaced rings in the centre: blue, yellow, black, green and red…. This design is symbolic; it represents the five continents of the world, united by Olympism, while the six colours are those that appear on all the national flags of the world at the present time. ” 
According to Olympic historian Karl Lennantz, Pierre de Coubertin may have been inspired by an advertisement depicting five bicycle tyres  that appeared on  the Dunlop Tyre Magazine which appeared at the time he invented his design,
  The Olympic Flag was created in 1913, at the suggestion of Baron de Coubertin. This flag was inaugurated in Paris, June, 1914, during the celebration of the 20th "anniversary of the reorganisation of the Olympic Games," but it had never yet appeared at an Olympiad gathering. It was used for the first time at the Olympic Games in 1920 at Antwerp Games of the VII th Olympiad. 


 India began her Olympic odyssey for the first time at the Antwerp Olympic in 1920, and has participated in every Summer Games since then. Purma Bannerjee  was elected as the first Flag bearer for India.
Prior to 1951, the official handbook of  IOC stated that each colour corresponded to a particular continent: blue for Europe, yellow for Asia, black for Africa, green for Oceania and red for America ; this was removed because there was no evidence that Coubertin had intended it. The current view of the IOC is that the symbol "reinforces the idea" that the Olympic Movement is international and welcomes all countries of the world to join. The Olympic symbol represents the union of the five continents and the meeting of athletes from throughout the world at the Olympic Games. However, no continent is represented by any specific ring. 

 At each Game  during the opening ceremony an Olympic Flag is slowly raised on the flag-pole erected in the arena and carried horizontally from the arena by a squad of eight athletes in uniform.
The solemn Oath of Athletes’ is taken while all the Flag bearers advance and form a semi-circle around the rostrum. The  athlete of the country where the Games are  taking place  advances to the rostrum accompanied by the Flag Bearer of his country; he mounts the rostrum and, holding  a corner of the Olympic Flag in his left hand and removing his hat, raises the right hand and takes the Oath.  
 At the end of  the Antwerp Games, the Olympic Flag could not be found  and a new Olympic flag had to be made for the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris. Despite it being a replacement, the IOC officially still calls this the "Antwerp Flag" instead of the "Paris Flag". It was passed on to the next organizing city of the Summer Olympics or Winter Olympics until the 1952 Winter Olympics in Oslo, Norway when a separate Olympic flag was created to be used only at the Winter Olympics .
                          The 1924 flag then continued to be used at the Summer Olympics until the Games of  Seoul 1988 when it was retired. And a new Olympic Flag was created using the best Korean silk bunting.
In 1997, at a banquet hosted by the US Olympic Committee, a reporter was interviewing Harry Prieste who had won a bronze medal in platform diving as a member of the 1920 US Olympic team. The reporter mentioned that the IOC had not been able to find out what had happened to the original Olympic flag. "I can help you with that," Prieste,  a World War I veteran said, "It's in my suitcase." At the end of the Antwerp Olympics, he stole the Flag and kept it with him  as a souvenir. For 77 years the flag was stored away in the bottom of his suitcase. The flag was returned to the IOC by Prieste, by then 103 years old, in a special ceremony held at the 2000 Games in Sydney. The original Antwerp Flag is now on display at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland.
 Costly Prank
A few days after winning her third straight 100m freestyle title, Australia's Dawn Fraser found herself in hot water. Along with others she tried to steal the Olympic Flag which was flying above the Imperial Palace. Fraser was immediately arrested. Despite being pardoned by the Emperor himself, she failed to escape the wrath of the Australian federation who banned her for 10 years for what they considered unexplainable and dishonourable behaviour in their colours.
There’s No Stopping Them

A t-shirt depicting a rioter running away with an Olympic ring on sale in London. The artist has responded to the Games with a cheeky mix of celebration, skepticism and satire.

The Olympic Rings
At first, the way the rings were interlaced was sometimes a little odd compared with what we are used to today.

Nowadays, the Olympic symbol is subject to very strict rules. Graphic standards have been set down, which determine, for example, the exact position and colour tone of each ring of the Olympic Flag. The use of the Olympic symbol in the creation of an emblem is also strictly regulated and the emblem design must be approved by the IOC.
First Asian Games held in New Delhi in 1951 wrongly described as "OLYMPIADE"


The Olympic symbol, flag and emblems are the exclusive property of the International Olympic Committee and cannot be used without the IOC’s authorisation. This symbol is among the most widely recognised symbols in the world !
  Many countries have honoured this sacred flag on their postage stamps.The list is end less.
The Olympic flame is a practice continued from the ancient Olympic Games. In Olympia (Greece), a flame was ignited by the sun and then kept burning until the closing of the Olympic Games. The flame first appeared in the modern Olympics at the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam. The flame itself represents a number of things, including purity and the endeavor for perfection.  India’s first Olympic Gold medal came from Amsterdam.
 The symbol's popularity and widespread use began during the lead-up to the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. Carl Diem, president of the Organizing Committee of the 1936 Summer Olympics, wanted to hold a torchbearers' ceremony in the stadium at Delphi, site of the famous oracle, where the Pythian Games were also held. For this reason he ordered construction of a milestone with the Olympic rings carved in the sides, and that a torchbearer should carry the flame along with an escort of three others from there to Berlin. The ceremony was celebrated but the stone was never removed. Later, two British authors Lynn and Gray Poole when visiting Delphi in the late 1950s saw the stone and reported in their "History of the Ancient Games" that the Olympic rings design came from ancient Greece. This has become known as "Carl Diem's Stone". This created a myth that the symbol had an ancient Greek origin.
 In the traditional ritual, an actress dressed as a high priestess used a mirror to focus the sun's rays and light the torch at the birthplace of the ancient Olympics in Greece, The stamp issued to commemorate the 80th session of  IOC  held in Athens in 1978, depicts the documentary photograph of lighting of the Olympic flame in 1964.
British Indian flag is being raised at the Berlin Olympic Village in 1936.
 The Official Indian Olympic squad carryied the British Union Jack defaced with ‘Star of India’ emblem in the centre. India’s hockey Wizard Dhyan Chand was to be the Flag bearer at the opening ceremony. 

 An independent and unofficial team consisting of 35 members of the ‘Hanuman Vyayam Prasarak Mandal’ from India’s Amravati also took part to  showcase the finest ethnic Indian martial arts from Malkhamb to wrestling in Berlin. They proudly carried a Swadeshi saffron flag at the Berlin Olympic. . 

After each Olympic event is completed a medal ceremony is held. Citizens of the host country also act as hosts during the medal ceremonies. They aid the officials who present the medals and act as flag bearers. Strict rules govern the conduct of athletes during the medal ceremony. 
 At a given Olympic presentation ceremony, the gold, silver and bronze medalists, dressed in official suits or sports wears, shall mount the victory podium, facing the officials' stands, followed by the announcement of their names and those of other winners; the national flag of the gold medalist shall be hoisted at the central flagstaff and the national flags of the silver and bronze medalists shall be hoisted at the flagpoles located to the immediate right and left of the central flagstaff; all the medalists shall be facing the flags when the champion' s national anthem is being played. 

 Symbolic flag-raising ceremonies, the culmination of the grandeur and solemnity of Olympic medal presentations, always make athletes and spectators full of tears of joy and pride.
During the 2004 Athens Games, the medal winners received a crown of olive branches, which was a direct reference to the Ancient Games, in which the victor's prize was an olive wreath.
Indian shooter R.S.Rathore, Silver medal winner in the trap shooting at the Athens Olympic leads the Indian contingent as the Flag Bearer at Beijing Olympic, in 2008.

North Korea and South Korea, the two countries' teams marched together under the Unification Flag in the opening ceremonies of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney and,  the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens,
 Row Over Wrong Flag
Olympic Games organisers LOCOG were forced to apologise to the North Korea women's football team after a blunder at Hampden Park saw their players' faces shown on big screens alongside South Korean flag. As the North Korean players warmed up on the pitch prior to the scheduled start time on 25 July 2012, they noticed the incorrect flag was being shown.
The squad walked off and could only be persuaded to return when the teams were announced again with each player's face displayed next to the North Korean flag.

 To be continued......

I have for acknowledgement a very interesting letter from Myles Garcia as appended below;
Dear Mr. Chakrabarti:

I just came upon your very informative AND COLORFUL blog about Olympic philately. 

However, I wanted to bring a correction to your attention,  Indeed for some reason, Carl Diem and the Berlin 1936 Organizing Committee wanted to commemorate, as you said, the start of the First Olympic Torch Relay at Delphi.  So, the official film documentary maker assigned to chronicle the Relay, Leni Reifenstahl, had her film crew carve the now infamous faux landmark "Diem Stone."  They incorporated its "significance" into her documentary, the much-heralded Olympia.   What was so odd about the choice of Delphi rather than Olympia was that other German foundations were paying for the excavations at Olympia. 

I visited Delphi in 2010 and indeed saw the "Diem Stone" which now sits by the entrance area near the turnstiles.  Ah, the glory that was a (bankrupt) Greece.

Very truly yours,
Myles Garcia, author of "Secrets of the Olympic Ceremonies."