MEP Alyn Smith calls for reversal of Olympic Saltire ban
LONDON 2012 organisers were forced to clarify their policy on flag waving at the Olympics yesterday after the SNP claimed Scottish fans would be unable to display the Saltire at events in the Games.
MEP Alyn Smith hit out at the London games after discovering a rule in the Olympics contract restricting the use of “flags of countries not participating in the games”.
Smith claimed this would prevent Scottish fans being able to take the Saltire into Olympic venues, given that it is the UK, not Scotland, which is competing at the games.
A spokesman for London 2012 confirmed yesterday that fans would be able to take the Saltire into venues at the Games in July and August.
However he added that the Saltire would not be flown above Hampden, where several football matches are taking place, due to the rules.
The organisers said that, under the Host City Contract, signed by London with the International Olympic Committee, the only flags to be flown over games venues such as Hampden are to be the Olympic flag, the London 2012 flag, the sports federation flag, the flags of competing nations, and the Union Flag. The latter is to denote the fact that the UK is the host nation of the Olympics this year.
The same rules apply to the other national flags within the UK, meaning that the St George’s Cross as well as Welsh and Northern Irish flags cannot be flown at events staged there either.
Last night Smith said: “It’s still completely ridiculous and unacceptable that Scotland’s national flag is going to be pulled down from its iconic place flying over Scotland’s national stadium.”
“The saltire normally – and quite properly – flies above Hampden 365 days of the year. Forcing it to be taken down in this way will not only anger many home-based supporters, but also disrespects our history and nationhood.”
Smith said it was his “pressure” which had forced the London 2012 organisers to confirm that fans would be able to wave the Saltire in Olympic venues.
He said: “I’m naturally pleased that I have managed to pressure the organising committee in London into allowing Scottish games fans to take their national flag in with them. Their agreement to give way on this just makes the ban on flying the Saltire over the stadium itself even more farcical. I hope they see this and reverse this decision too. It would cost them nothing but earn them huge respect and goodwill.”
But a London 2012 spokesperson explained: “There are existing protocols in place for flying flags in an official capacity at venues which are used at all Olympic Games. Only flags of competing National Olympic Committees may be flown alongside the Olympic flag, London 2012 flag and the sport federation flag. Team GB compete under the Union flag and therefore this will be the official flag flown at all Olympic venues.”
Smith added that the possibility of a ban on the Saltire being taken into venues would have flown in the face of the “spirit of the Olympics”. He also claimed it “had understandably turned people off purchasing tickets for the games”.
A London 2012 spokesman said that the rules restricting flags of countries not participating in the games referred to countries which may be barred for political reasons from competing, or for those which have decided not to get involved.
The organisers said all fans, carrying any flag will have to abide by security protocols.
The issue of displaying Saltires arose at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002 when Scottish skier Alain Baxter was ordered to cover up a blue and white Saltire he had dyed into his hair before competing.
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