Sign of the times
U.S. athletes told to cool it at Olympics
By Simon Hart
LONDON SUNDAY TELEGRAPH
NEW YORK — American athletes have been warned not to wave the U.S. flag during their medal celebrations at this summer's Olympic Games in Athens, for fear of provoking crowd hostility and harming the country's already-battered public image.
The spectacle of victorious athletes grabbing a national flag and parading it around the stadium is a familiar part of international sporting competition, but U.S. Olympic officials have ordered their 550-strong team to exercise restraint and avoid any jingoistic behavior.
The plan is part of a charm offensive aimed at repairing the country's international reputation after the deepening crisis in Iraq and damaging revelations of the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. forces at the Abu Ghraib prison.
"American athletes find themselves in extraordinary circumstances in Athens in relation to the world as we know it right now," said Mike Moran, a veteran former spokesman for the United States Olympic Committee who has been retained as a consultant to advise athletes how to behave.
"Regardless of whether there is anti-American sentiment in Athens or not, the world watches Americans a lot now in terms of how they behave and our culture. What I am trying to do with the athletes and coaches is to suggest to them that they consider how the normal things they do at an event, including the Olympics, might be viewed as confrontational or insulting or cause embarrassment."
Now, I'm not much into flag waving. But I think it is just lousy that our athletes will not be able to share in this time-honored tradition because of concerns about aggravating already tense relations with the rest of the world.
Thanks a lot George.