Wednesday, July 9, 2008
On the Olympic flag, the rings appear on a white background.
The flag reinforces the idea of the Olympic Movement's universality, as it brings together all the countries of the world.
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." (1931)
Textes choisis II, p.470.
Combined in this way, the six colours of the flag (including the white of the background) represent all nations.
It is wrong, therefore, to believe that each of the colours corresponds to a certain continent !
At the Olympic Games, the flag is brought into the stadium during the opening ceremony. Since the 1960 Games in Rome (Italy), it has been carried horizontally by a delegation of athletes or other people well known for their positive work in society.
After its arrival, the flag is hoisted up the flagpole. It must fly in the stadium during the whole of the Games. When the flag is lowered at the closing ceremony, it signals the end of the Games.
The mayor of the host city of the Games passes the Olympic flag to the mayor of the next host city of the Games.
Even though Pierre de Coubertin intended the Olympic Games to be an international event from the time of their re-establishment in 1896 in Athens (Greece), it was only at the 1912 Games in Stockholm (Sweden) that, for the first time, the participants came from all five continents. One year later, in 1913, the five rings appeared at the top of a letter written by Pierre de Coubertin. He drew the rings and coloured them in by hand. He then described this symbol in the Olympic Review of August 1913.
It was also Coubertin who had the idea for the Olympic flag. He presented the rings and flag in June 1914 in Paris at the Olympic Congress.
The First World War prevented the Games from being celebrated in 1916 in Berlin (Germany) as planned. It was not until 1920 in Antwerp (Belgium) that the flag and its five rings could be seen flying in an Olympic stadium.
The universality conveyed by the rings and the flag was a new idea at the beginning of the 20th century. Nationalism was very strong and tension between certain countries was high. It was in this climate, however, that Coubertin proposed a symbol which aimed to encourage world unity.