World Trade Center flag will fly at Games

Posted: Wednesday, February 06, 2002

SALT LAKE CITY -- The tattered flag from the World Trade Center will fly over the Winter Olympics, but U.S. athletes won't carry it into the opening ceremony as planned.

The IOC agreed to raise it at the Friday night ceremony after rejecting the U.S. Olympic Committee's request to have five athletes and an official carry the flag that was recovered after the Sept. 11 attacks.

That decision drew the ire of Salt Lake Olympic officials, who had supported the plan for athletes to carry the flag in the opening ceremony.

''We respectfully disagree with the IOC on this decision,'' said Mitt Romney, head of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee.

The flag will be raised next to the Olympic flame during ceremonies at Rice-Eccles Stadium and serve as the official U.S. flag. It flew at Yankee Stadium during last year's World Series and was featured Sunday during the national anthem at the Super Bowl.

''We considered this the highest honor of respect -- the hoisting of the ground zero flag as the official U.S. flag,'' IOC director general Francois Carrard said.

The International Olympic Committee told USOC president Sandy Baldwin that many nations had suffered and that allowing members of the American team to carry the flag during the opening ceremony would not be proper. Baldwin told the IOC that position was ''clearly understandable.''

''Every country in the IOC has issues,'' American IOC member Anita DeFrantz said Tuesday. ''As Americans we have to understand it's a world event and also that we are a guest even though we are the host nation.

''This way, with the flag being raised, we serve both goals.''

The flag was expected to be lowered after the ceremony because of its delicate condition.

Romney said the flag also would have a prominent role in a nationally televised show before the ceremony.

''That has long been planned, to honor the heroes of Sept. 11, and we intend to stick with that plan,'' Romney said.

DeFrantz noted the IOC had repeatedly offered condolences ''for all the American people'' in the aftermath of the attacks.

The flag was recovered at the trade center site with 12 stars missing and covered in ash. It was given to American Legion Post 433 in New Providence, N.J., by an anonymous donor and presented to New York City Port Authority Police.

USOC spokesman Mike Moran said the flag was to arrive in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, accompanied by two Port Authority Police officers.

The USOC was looking for a way to acknowledge the flag in a separate ceremony, he said, and might have it on hand before the opening ceremony Friday, when President Bush is expected to meet with American athletes.

Strict rules govern the opening ceremony. In general, athletes are prohibited from any political displays during the march and are ''required to parade under the flag of each delegation,'' IOC director general Francois Carrard said.

The flag bearer for the U.S. team will be announced Thursday.

At the 1988 Games in Seoul, the U.S. team was reprimanded for clowning around during the opening ceremony. Several athletes were caught mugging for TV cameras and one held up a sign saying, ''Hi, Mom, send Won,'' a reference to the South Korean currency.



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