Flying The Flag For The Olympics

Posted on 10 May 2012

Union Jack Jewellery and Gifts

If you’re living in London, the news from the capital is rarely complete without a liberal sprinklng of stories about the fast-approaching Olympics. And so it was on Tuesday – following the bilious bulletin about unscrupulous landlords dumping their tenants in order to attract vastly inflated rents for the duration of the Games – that my mind in a random segue switched to thinking about jewellery for the occasion.

Having already added a liberal sprinkling of good quality Union Jack items, my attention turned to the distinctive 5-ring, Olympic symbol. Apart from a vague recollection that it was supposed to symbolize world peace,  I realised that my knowledge was a black hole. And since this is exactly the kind of question that’s likely to rear its head at the finals of the Pub Quiz in two weeks’ time, as leader of “Joanna’s Jewels” I felt it my duty to investigate!

It seems that the distinctive symbol of the five-rings was created by Frenchman Pierre de Coubertin as long ago as 1914. As the founder of the modern Olympic games, he wanted to celebrate their 20th Anniversary, so he created an Olympic banner to act as an international emblem.  The design was emblazoned on a flag and wham-bam-thank-you-Pierre, became the official Olympic symbol at the 1920 games in Belgium.

Coubertin’s rationale of the design was sound and simple.  The five interlocking rings signified the union of the five participating continents and the coming together of their top athletes at the Oympic Games. The White background represented the ideals of peace and truth and the colours of the rings were chosen because the flags of each participating country included at least one of the colors. Blue represented Europe,  Black represented Africa, Red represented America, Yellow represented Asia and Green represented Oceania, Australia and New Zealand.   The flag also allows participants from unrepresented countries to take part in the Olympic Gamess as independent athletes.

Today the Olympic flag, is used as an international symbol of peace, unity and solidarity, and while some symbols such as the Olympic flame are used solely during the Games, the flag is often flown throughout the year.

There are strict codes of practice concerning the use of the Olympic flag.  At the end of each Games, the Mayor of the current host city passes the Olympic flag to the Mayor of the next host city, where it remains for four years until the next Games. During the opening ceremony, the flag of ancient Greece is also raised to symbolize the history of the Olympics Games. Starting in Belgium in 1920 right up to 1988, Coubertin’s original flag was passed along from Olympic city to Olympic city,  but It now resides in the Olympic Museum in Switzerland. RIP.

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