Olympic chiefs bow to fan pressure - Saltire to fly over Hampden
Scotland's national flag will now be allowed to fly over Hampden Park during this summer's Olympic Games, it was revealed today.
The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games [LOCOG] climbed down and finally announced that the Saltire will be allowed to keep its normal pride of place above the country's national stadium when eight Olympics football matches are held there this summer.
The move follows a national campaign of protest sparked off last weekend when Scottish Euro MP Alyn Smith discovered the ban and wrote to London Olympics supremo Lord Coe insisting it be overturned. Since then, nearly 1300 people have backed him by signing an online petition demanding a u-turn.
Today SNP MEP Alyn said he was "delighted" that games chiefs had decided to change their policy and drop the ban. He added: "This move shows commonsense by the organisers and is wholeheartedly welcome. It shows they are prepared to listen and that is something to be commended.
"Of course, the Saltire should never have been banned in the first place, but better late than never."
Alyn also praised the Scottish fans who had taken time to protest, saying: "Many of them quite rightly found the ban insulting - Scotland's national flag normally flies above Hampden for 365 days of the year and to have removed it would not only have gone against long standing tradition, but also have made a mockery of the Olympic ideal of international companionship and respect
"Everyone who signed the petition online and raised their concerns with the games organisers deserves a huge congratulations. Without that fan pressure the Saltire would have surely been removed from our national stadium this summer. Let's hope that everyone in Scotland can now enjoy the Olympics in the knowledge that our distinctive sense of nationhood and identity are being fully respected."
Games bosses originally claimed that the Saltire could not be flown because games rules only allowed national flags to be flown at stadia during games events. As Scotland does not participate in its own right but as a member of Team GB, they said that the Union Jack had to be used instead.
However, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic (LOCOG) changed its mind on the ban after Alyn wrote to its Chairman, Lord Coe, highlighting an exception made for the 1992 games which took place in the Catalan capital Barcelona.
On that occasion, the Catalonian flag was paraded around the stadium at the opening ceremony and given equal status with the Spanish one, while the anthems of both Spain and Catalonia were played.
Alyn added: "This precedent proved that the ban on the Saltire was not necessary and it could remain over our national stadium for the duration of the games.
A spokesperson for LOCOG confirmed to Alyn: "We are delighted to confirm that the Scottish flag will be flying from Hampden during games time.
"Scottish fans are more than welcome to bring and fly both Scottish and British flags."
A copy of the letter Alyn Smith MEP sent to Lord Coe at the start of the week is here.
A video showing the opening ceremony of the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, with the Catalan flag paraded and given equal prominence with the Spanish flag, can be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCtHzw8swL0