The Olympic Flag
The Olympic Flag
Pierre de Coubertin is said to have found the original five-rings symbol engraved on an altar-stone unearthed at Delphi. The colorful Olympic rings are one of the most widely recognized symbols in the world today.
Origin and History
The founder of the modern Olympic games, Pierre de Coubertin, wanted to memorialize the 20th anniversary of the revival of the Olympic games. He decided to create a banner, an emblem of Olympism, to present at the 1914 Paris Congress of the Olympic Movement. For his design, Coubertin chose a five-ring symbol that came from an altar-stone discovered at Delphi. The number five refers to the five continents. He chose six colors (white, red, yellow, green, blue and black) because each flag of the countries that were part of the Olympic movement contain at least one of those colors. The Paris Congress in 1914 was so taken with the design that they adopted it as the official flag of the Olympic movement. The new flag made its debut at the 1920 games in Antwerp, Belgium. It was here that the rings became the official Olympic symbol.
A Symbolic Banner
The Olympic flag measures 2.06 m long, 60 cm high and is completely white with five circles in the center. The top three circles, from left to right, are blue, black and red. The bottom two circles, from left to right, are yellow and green. The white background symbolizes peace and truth. The five rings represent the five continents of the world, but a prevalent post-facto interpretation has tied specific colors to specific continents:
• Blue representing Europe
• Black representing Africa
• Red representing America
• Yellow representing Asia
• Green representing Australia (Oceania)
A Surrogate Flag
The Olympic flag is a symbol of peace, goodwill, and global solidarity and tolerance. True to this meaning, she has lent her colors to many athletes who were unable to compete under their own flag.
At Barcelona in 1992, athletes from a part of Yugoslavia not represented at the Games participated as independent athletes under the Olympic flag. They did not march in the parade of flags, but the Olympic flag was raised on their behalf during award ceremonies for them. In the 2000 Games at Sydney, four athletes from East Timor were allowed to compete under the Olympic flag because East Timor did not have international status as an independent country.
The Parade of Flags
The opening and closing ceremonies incorporate the Parade of Flags. During the opening ceremony, each team parades into the stadium behind their flag. The first flag to enter the stadium is the flag of Greece, the birthplace of the Olympics. The rest follow in alphabetical order according to the language of the host country. The flag and team of the host country close the parade.
At each closing ceremony, when the Olympic flag is passed on to the future host of the Games, a Greek flag is raised to symbolize the past.
The Passing of the Flag
At the end of each Olympic games, the mayor of the host city presents the Olympic flag to the mayor of the next host city. It then rests in the town hall for four years until the opening ceremony.
The original Olympic flag, created by Pierre de Coubertin and presented to the mayor of Antwerp in 1920, traveled from Olympic city to Olympic city for 68 years. Finally, in 1988, it found its resting place in Lausanne, Switzerland, where it holds a place of honor in the Olympic museum there.