I consider myself an Olympics fan. I don’t watch with fervor every Olympiad, but when I’m able, I keep it on the TV and try to stay involved.
So that’s why I find this long-standing tradition rather surprising: Americans don’t dip their flag in front of the host nation’s leaders during the opening ceremonies, while most other countries do. News to me.
Out of respect, most countries briefly dip their flag as they parade past the host nation’s leaders, then return it upright after they pass. The U.S. hasn’t done this since 1924, in Paris.
Granted, it made sense in 1936. The Americans almost boycotted the games in Berlin because the Nazis were in control, but at the last minute decided to participate. There was no way they’d also lower the flag for Hitler (Bulgaria, Iceland, and India did the same).
After 1936, the US Olympic Committee made this ritual standard protocol: no flag dipping. Every Olympiad, the flag-bearing athlete is reminded repeatedly to keep the flag straight, and they’re not really given a reason why.
No one seems to remember the original reason the States adopted this protocol, but it’s still practiced. There’s a legend that it started in 1908, when American shot putter Ralph Rose declared in London, “This flag dips for no earthly king.”
Some patriotic organizations say that dipping the American flag for another country is unpatriotic and violates the Flag Code. According to Mike Buss, deputy director of the American Legion, “You don’t dip the United States flag to honor other countries.”
There’s rumor that the US Olympic team may break tradition and dip the flag, according to USOC CEO Scott Blackmun. But until we watch the opening ceremonies, it’s speculation.
So, I’m curious: what’s your take on this? Do you feel like this is a sign of American bigheadedness, or is it simple patriotism? Do you think the USOC should change the rule, or is this not that big a deal?
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