This page is part of © FOTW Flags Of The World website

Olympics - Non-national Flags for Olympic Athletes

Last modified: 2023-06-03 by zachary harden
Keywords: olympics | non-national flags | athletes | afghanistan | cis | unified team | soud africa | timor |
Links: FOTW homepage | search | disclaimer and copyright | write us | mirrors

[The Olympic flag]
by Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán
Flag adopted: 1914.

Athletes take part under the flags of their delegations, which in most cases are their national flags. However, there have been other cases, some of which are mentioned below.

See also:

Other sites:

Bosnia and Herzegovina, Barcelona 1992

At Barcelona 92, the Bosnia and Herzegovina team was 'fast-tracked' to allow them to compete under the newly created fleur-de-lis flag. They might be strict about the rules, but they can relax them if they want.

Unified Team (Commonwealth of Independent States), Barcelona 1992

At the 1992 Olympic Games of Barcelona, the Commonwealth of Independent States took part as one team, under the Olympic flag. At the Opening Ceremony, though, the "Unified Team" (as it was called officially) paraded behind all the flags of the states of its members. For Tajikistan this still was its "Soviet" flag! Since this team was really the team entered by the NOC of the former Soviet Union, it also included Georgia, even though at the time Georgia was not a member of CIS.

At another sports event in the same year, the European Football Championships, the CIS took part under a different flag. In this case a white flag with in black letters C.I.S. was used.

I have dug through a box of old videotapes, and located my tape of the 1992 Barcelona Olympic opening ceremony. I made a few notes, most of them not very important, but I have solved the question of what flag the Unified Team marched with:
Answer: the Olympic Rings and the flags of the 12 Republics.
A wrestler named Aleksandr Karelin carried in the Olympic flag accompanied by the sign "Unified Team" in at least 3 languages (English, French, Spanish), then he was followed by 12 more flagbearers, marching together, then the team members.

I have a color-photos publised by the newspapers ESTO, Ovaciones, and El Universal a day later of the openning ceremony:

  • Belarus used the 1991-1995 national flag (white-red-white horizontal stripes).
  • Tajikistan flown the TSSR! (1953-1991). That is to mean, the red flag with white and green stripes and the hammer an sickle. It seems it was used even after Tajikistan became independent (late 1992). In FOTW it is said that the a plain red, white, green flag was adopted in 1991.
  • Turkmenistan, used the 1992 flag.
  • Kyrgyzstan. The flag is the same red with the yellow sun, but in the three photos I have the sun appears only in one side of the flag (the anverse -the hoist its to the viewer's left).
  • {5}

    South Africa, Barcelona 1992

    [Interim Olympic flag for South Africa] by Pascal Gross, 1999
    Flag adopted 1992.

    The 1992 Olympic Games included South African athletes for the first time since the start of the Apartheid Boycot. South Africa fielded "a non-racial team, under a non-racial flag". For this reason the team did not compete under the "old" national flag, but instead under an "Interim Olympic Flag for South Africa". This was designed for the NOC of South Africa by a Johannesburg marketing consultancy. The "flashes" of colours represented rain and sea (blue), land (red) and agriculture (green). The original design of the flag had the text "SOUTH AFRICA" written in grey below the emblem, but in the final version the text had been removed.

    Though this flag was neutral to the international community, being part of the change coming over South Africa it was somewhat controversial to the South African people themselves. Some of them didn't see the need for a neutral flag, others regretted that the prominent South African sports emblem, the springbok, had not been incorporated.
    {2, 3}

    North & South Korea, Sydney 2000

    [Flag for Unified Korean Sports Teams] by Mark Sensen, 15 September 2000

    After nearly a decennium, North and South Korea are once again at speaking terms. They are committed to the re-unification of Korea, and as a demonstration of this commitment they intend to field joint Korean teams at international sports events. At Sydney 2000 the Koreas still participated as two separate teams, but at the Opening Ceremony they marched into the stadium as a single team, behind one flag held by two athletes. This is a flag used to represent all of Korea: A white flag, with in blue a map of the entire Korean peninsula.

    The same flag was used in 1991, shortly before the last freeze in the Korean relations, when joint Korean teams participated in the World Table Tennis Championships in Chiba, Japan and the World Youth Soccer Championship in Lisbon, Portugal. {1, 5}

    Teams and athletes under the Olympic flag

    [The Olympic flag]
    by Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán
    Flag adopted: 1914.

    Sometimes, when athletes or teams don't have a national flag, or have a reason not to compete under it, or not to parade behind it, the Olympic flag has been used as an alternative:

    Soviet Union in Afghanistan (Moscow 1980)

    At Moscow 1980, some of the countries protesting the Soviet Union's involvement in Afghanistan refused to take part at all, some refused to take part in the Opening Ceremony, and some did take part but, instead of marching behind their national flags, they marched behind Olympic flags.

    Independent Olympic Athletes; Yugoslavia (Barcelona 1992)

    While in their home countries fighting was too grim too allow for an Olympic truce, the athletes from countries that once had been part of Yugoslavia took part for the first time under their own flag. Though the remaining part of Yugoslavia was not represented at Barcelona 1992, some individual athletes from Yugoslavia participated as Independent Olympic Athletes. They did not march in the parade of flags, but in award ceremonies for them the Olympic flag was hoisted.

    Independent Olympic Athletes; East Timor (Sydney 2000)

    Four athletes from East Timor participated at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. But at the moment there is no internationally recognized independent country of East Timor, nor an East Timor NOC. Therefore, the IOC allowed them to compete under the Olympic flag.

    Independent Olympic Athletes; India (Sochi 2014)

    The Indian Olympic Association had been suspended until its next elections, for failing to comply with the Olympic Charter when electing  its officials. As these were scheduled for Sunday 9 February 2014, the  athletes of the Indian team entered the Sochi Winter Olympic Games on Friday 7 February as Independent Olympic Participants under the Olympic Flag.
    On 11 February, that required changes have been made and new officials have been elected, the IOC has lifted the suspension. A symbolic flag-raising at the Olympic Park will have India enter the Olympic Games, and two of their athletes will be able to compete under the Indian flag after all. The third, however, has already finished his  participation, as an independent participant. {9}

    Images of Indian delegation marching under the Olympic Flag during the Opening ceremony:

    The case of Afghanistan

    The IOC suspended the National Olympic Committee of Afghanistan, and the new government is interested in rebuilding sporting federations in Afghanistan, but has just begun this process. Therefore, Afghanistan could not have even been invited to Salt Lake City, and I am not sure why there is even talk about displaying their flag.

    This Malaysian site quotes:

    "Though there are 201 NOCs recognized by the IOC, only 200 are eligible to participate in the Olympics. The International Olympic Committee suspended Afghanistan in October 1999. The IOC stated, "Since the Taleban forces took over the country in 1996 the recognized Olympic Committee has had no control over the country's sports."

    So, if the ATA controls the NOC of Afghanistan, then the IOC at Salt Lake City could hoist the Black-Red-Green flag at tonight's parade of nations in the Openning Ceremonies.
    Also, the page I have referenced give the Olympic country codes, so we have another set of three letter acronyms.


    1 International Olympic Committee Website, July 2000
    2 Bruce Berry, 21 July 2000
    3 Flagmaster 84 [fLm], Autumn 1996
    4 Olympic Games -, 2000.
    5 Juan Manuel Gabino, September 12, 2000; July 4, 2003
    6 De Olympiske Lege gennem 100 år 1896 - 1996, 1996
    7 Dean McGee, February 8, 2002; July 4, 2002
    8 Roger Moyer, February 7, 2002
    9 Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 11 February 2014
    10 Ivan Sache, 10 February 2014