Olympic Debuts

Olympic Flag Debuts
Flags have been a lifelong obsession, and I thought it would be fitting to write something about the very inspiration for my love of flags, the Olympic Parade of Nations. First adoring the many flags passing by on the television during the 94' and 96' Olympics, my grandfather then thought I might as well commit them to memory, along with their capitals and other factoids... and the rest is history. Here is a quick piece to prep you for the Olympic Opening Ceremonies in London.
The Olympics have always been a recurring ode to national pride. A time when countries send forth their greatest athletes under their chosen flags and banners. At this thirtieth Olympiad we will see a number of flags making their international debut, with many fleeting governments having changed their colors since the Beijing Olympics in 2008. As you watch the Parade of Nations this year, here are a few new flags of which to take note:


New Flags:
  • Libya - When you see this flag in the parade, you will not be seeing a new flag but a very old flag being reused. With the fall of Gadaffi we see a turn from the minimalist green flag based on historic flag of the Islamic Fatamid Caliphate and also representing his Green Book. In what has been a growing trend that I have written about in my previous piece on the Free Syrian Flag, Libya reverted to the original flag of the Kingdom of Libya. The movement chose to adopt the flag of the first independent Libyan government and the last symbol of legitimate rule in Libya.  This is not nostalgia for the old monarchy but is instead a return to the first true Libyan Flag. So when you see Libya marching you will see the symbols of a country lifted from under the shadow of tyranny and hopefully from the turmoil of their recent past.

  • Myanmar - Myanmar also recycled an old flag design as of 2010. With the symbols of the old Socialist government having certain connotations, the old flag design was scrapped when the country adopted a new constitution and formed a new government. They went so far to rid themselves of the evil banners that there was a nation-wide order to burn all the old flags. Like the many countries who don't have any graphic designers, they chose the old flag of the independent State of Burma, formed in resistance to the Japanese occupation in 1942. This flag originally feature the royal peacock, but now features a large white star, which was the symbol used by the Burmese resistance combatting the Japanese Army. When you see Burma marching it will be yet another example of a country starting anew, but rekindling the symbols of their honored past. 


Minor Changes
  • In 2010 the Serbian flag was redesigned with the arms emblazoned on the flag, trivial changes but we will see a slightly different flag nonetheless. Spot the difference.
  • Malawi's national colors had a slight redesign from 2010-2012 with the addition of a white sun, but this year's newly elected government decided to revert to their original independence flag from 1964. Sadly the new flag will never see representation at an Olympiad. 









Noteworthy other flags you'll see but aren't necessarily new to the games
  • Independent Olympic Athletes - This distinction has been given to athletes lost in the turmoil of shifting borders and governments. This year, athletes from the new nation of South Sudan will march under the Olympic flag with the name of the Independent Olympic Athletes. Being such a young nation South Sudan has not yet formed an Olympic committee but will still send athletes to compete. This group will also feature athletes from the Netherlands Antilles. This country was officially dissolved into the Kingdom of the Netherlands, but wishing to continue competing on their own, the Dutch Antillean Olympic Committee continued to function until their status was revoked in 2011, though their qualifying athletes were allowed to compete under as Independent Olympic Athletes. All athletes competing individually compete under a standard Olympic flag, representing their status as non-aligned global athletes and true representations of the Olympic spirit. 




  • Chinese Taipei - Taiwan, or the Republic of China, officially competed at the Olympics from 1932-1976 under her own name and colors. In 1979, it was decided that the contestable nature of the name "Republic of China" violated the Olympic Charter and, seemingly under the pressure of the People's Republic of China, Taiwan was prevented from competing in the Olympics with their official name. Today, Taiwan competes under this white flag bearing the blue sky and white sun of the ROC flag and is referred to during the Olympics as Chinese Taipei, a politically ambiguous name that both the PRC and ROC agreed upon in 1980. 


Now you're prepared for the Parade of Nations at the XXX Olympiad!