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Olympic Protest Flags

Last modified: 2023-06-03 by zachary harden
Keywords: olympic games | protest | tibet |
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Becoming increasingly political over the years, many groups have seen the Olympics as opportunities to further their ends. Here is a selection that have involved the use of flags.

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Olympic rings as handcuffs

[handcuffs protest flag] image located by John Udics, 7 April 2008

An interesting flag is depicted on a BBC news webpage dealing with a pro-Tibet protest at the lighting of the flame for this year's Olympic baton run in Greece. The flag, shown at appears to show the Olympic rings in white on black, with the bottom two rings formed out of a pair of handcuffs.
James Dignan, 24 March 2008

The flag was designed by "Reporters sans frontières" (RSF), an association founded by Robert Ménard in 1985, aiming at the defense of the freedom of press. Every year in January, RSF publishes an account of the freedom of press in the world, listing the reporters killed or jailed the least year and the censored medias. RSF was awarded in 2005 the Sakharov Prize by the European Parliament.

The handcuff flag is part of the RSF campaign for the freedom of press in China. The flag can be seen in full on the RSF website. The white text below "Beijing 2008" is "Reporters Without Borders", the English translation of the association's name:

The handcuff flag was shown for the first time on 15 October 2007 in front of the Olympic Museum in Lausanne (Switzerland), to "celebrate" the inauguration of the 17th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing:

The first version of the flag was in French ("Pékin 2008" / "Reporters sans frontières"), as shown on the photography of the event by Nicholas Ratzenboek (AFP)
Ivan Sache, 19 April 2009

[handcuffs protest flag] image located by Terence Martin, 10 February 2009

Today's Wall Street Journal covered protests against the amount of money being spent on the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010, claiming the money would be better spent on social programs aimed at poverty. The flag turns each ring on the Olympic flag into a handcuff:
Terence Martin, 10 February 2009

Olympic Flag with Bullet Holes


"Police, protesting Tibetans clash AP[Monday, August 30, 2004 18:35]
ATHENS, Greece August 29 - Tibetan protesters and police briefly scuffled at the main Olympic stadium complex Sunday, just hours before organizers of the 2008 Beijing Games were to receive the Olympic flag at the closing ceremony. After passing through a security checkpoint, six activists from the International Tibet Support Network unfurled a black flag with five bullet holes replacing the Olympic rings, and began marching toward the main stadium. They were stopped by about two dozen police and security guards who seized the flag in a brief scuffle. Olympic rules forbid political banners in venues...
"We feel that this is the flag that Beijing truly deserves," spokesman Tenzin Sewo said."

It's accompanied of a photograph showing what may be a flag, with a photograph of five bullet holes in a three over two pattern with a black stripe of approximately 1/6th of the width along the top and bottom, bit with white lettering. The top text says: "China plays games with human rights"; the bottom one says: "". The photograph of the flag has the caption:
"Activists from the International Tibet Support Network display a banner with five bullet holes replacing the Olympic rings in the sport complex of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens on Sunday, Aug. 29, 2004. In the evening the organizers of the 2008 Beijing Games will receive the Olympic flag. (Ap Photo/Petros Giannakouris)"

Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 3 April 2008

Broken Olympic Rings


The caption of the photograph says:
"A Tibetan demonstrator is seen near a flag representing the Beijing Olympics during a protest in Siliguri on Tuesday. (Diptendu Dutta/AFP/Getty Images)"

And what we see of that "flag" in the background is a near-blood red field with what would be the chain of rings in the order blue, orange, black, brown and red, with at least the orange and red being outlined in grey. However, the black ring is broken at the top and bottom and already slightly pulled apart, with one small bit exactly at the top remaining in place, put two other bits falling down through what would normally be the heart of the black ring. The reason that the middle ring is broken might be that there are two hands pulling the rings apart, as something in grey seems to be holding the places where the pairs of outer rings cross at the bottom, but this is where the photograph is cut. What it is we don't see, and whether it's really a flag, I don't know, and I can't easily find a wider image.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 4 April 2008