Northern Ireland flag 'banned at Olympics'

 

Strict rules banning the display of certain symbols at the Beijing Olympics will mean Northern Ireland supporters will not be able to wave their national flag at the events, it was claimed today.

A code of conduct for spectators laid down by Organising Committee outlaws flags other than those of Olympic members.

Amnesty International claims the measure has been introduced to ensure no flags of Chinese-governed Tibet are displayed by independence campaigners. However, the human rights group said it will have consequences for other national flags as well.

The Repubilc and United Kingdom are represented by the Tricolour and the Union flag, respectively, but Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales are not members in their own right.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International programme director for Northern Ireland, said: “To many sports fans from here travelling to Beijing it will seem absurd that neither they nor our athletes can show the Northern Ireland or Ulster flags at the Olympics.

“But for people in China the repression of free speech is much more serious - saying the wrong thing can land you in prison and many journalists and activists have been arrested.”

“Local athletes taking medals at the Beijing Olympics should be able to do a victory lap with a Northern Ireland or Ulster flag if they wish,” he added.

The Organising Committee guidelines states that spectators should not bring the following to any events: “Flags of non-members of the Olympics or Paralympics; flags or banners larger than 2m x 1m; flagpoles; any banners, slogans, fliers, brochures or samples.”

PA