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[The Olympic flag]
by Mark Sensen
Flag adopted: 1914.

The Olympic flag was designed in 1913 by Baron Pierre de Coubertin as a flag for the Olympic Congress in Paris 1914 celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Olympic Movement. At the congress the flag was adopted as the flag for the Olympic Movement.
{1, 3}


See also:

Other site:

Description of the flag

According to the Olympic Charter the design and proportions of the Olympic flag are those of the flag presented by Pierre de Coubertin at the Paris Congress in 1914.

On a white field without borders, five rings in blue, yellow, black, green, and red interlaced from left to right forming a trapezium with the blue, black and red rings are at the top and the yellow and green rings at the bottom. The proportions of the original flag were 2 x 3m and the rings occupied an area of 0.6 x 2.2m.

There are a few exceptions to this rule. Among these are the Antwerp and Seoul flags, which have a fringe of the six colours around the white field.
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Origin and Meaning of the Olympic flag

Pierre de Coubertin is said to have found the original Olympic symbol engraved on an altar-stone unearthed at Delphi. It has been used at least since Athens 1906 to symbolize the five Olympic continents.

When Pierre de Coubertin in 1913 designed a flag for the 1914 Paris Congress of the Olympic Movement, celebrating the movements twentieth anniversary, naturally he chose the Olympic symbol. For the colours he decided to use the colours of the flags of all countries that were part of the Olympic Movement, six colours in all: White for the cloth and Red, Yellow, Green, Blue, and Black for the rings. The congress was so taken with this design that it adopted it as the flag for the Olympic Movement.

As can be read in the Olympic Charter, 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. Though colourful explanations about the symbolism of the coloured rings exist, the only connection between the rings and the continents is that the number five refers to the number of continents. Any other relation must be a post-facto interpretation.
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The text above contains a passage that needs to be corrected. It is written that "Pierre de Coubertin is said to have found the original Olympic symbol engraved on an altarstone unearthed at Delphi." Apparently a number of publications on the Olympic games and movement contain similar claims, sometimes accompanied by photographs of the "evidence", a stone with the five rings carved into it.

An article by Robert Knight Barney called 'This Great Symbol: The Tricks of History' and published in Olympic Review (No. 301, 1992 pp. 627-631, 641), sets the record straight concerning the supposed antique origins of the famous Olympic rings. Barney points out that the stones in question, which may still be seen at Delphi, were in fact manufactured for a ceremony which formed part of the torch relay from Greece to Germany for the 1936 games. The stones were since left at various locations at Delphi, causing later visitors to mistake the stones with the rings for genuine antique artefacts.

In the same article Barney also presents new views on the origins of the Olympic emblem. Barney explains that the likely inspiration for the interlocked rings lies in the symbol of the French sports federation USFSA - Union des sociétés françaises des sports athlétiques. The USFSA used an emblem consisting of two interlocking rings, reflecting that the USFSA was born through the merger of two previously independent associations. de Coubertain was president of the USFSA. Barney states that the symbol with the two rings is known to have been used on uniforms "at least as early as 1893." When the time came to make an emblem for the Olympic movement, the 20th anniversary of the Olympic movement in 1914, the symbol of the USFSA served as model: "It seems quite obvious, therefore, that Coubertin's affiliation with the USFSA led him to think in terms of interlocked rings or circles when he applied his mind towards conceiving a logo for his commemorative conference of 1914, indeed, a ringlogo that would symbolize his Olympic Movement's success up to that point in time, just as the interlocking of two rings had signified the successful marriage of two distinct societies into one, the USFSA. Circles, after all, connote wholeness (as we are told by the psychologist Karl Jung), the interlocking of them, continuity." (p. 629). In Barney's judgement the five rings of the Olympic emblem "connoted the successful accomplishment of history's first five Modern Olympic Games, and that the ring colours exemplify hues represented in the flags of each of the countries participating in the Games of the Olympiads I, II, III, IV, and V." (p. 631).


The host's and Greek flag at Olympic ceremonies

At the end of each games, the flag of Greece is raised first, no matter if it is summer or winter, to show the location of the first modern games. The first modern games was held in 1896 at Athens, Greece. The second flag flown is that of the host country of the games. The last flag is the host country of the next games of that same season.

The flags at Syndey were at this order: Greece, Australia, Greece. When the Greek anthem was sung, both Greek flags were raised at the same time in order not to offend the Aussies, and the Aussie anthem came last.

This time at Salt Lake City, it will be Greece, United States, and Italy. Italy will be hosting the games in 2006 in the city of Turin.



1 International Olympic Committee Website, July 2000
2 Herman De Wael, 15 April 1999
3 Flagmaster 84 [flm], Autumn 1996
4 Pascal Vagnat, 11 December 1998
5 Olympic Charter - International Olympic Committee, 12 December 1999
6 Jan Oskar Engene, 13 January 2002.
7 Zachary Harden, 26 January 2002.