Olympics: Prodi wants to see EU flag next to national flags

  

Whether European citizens will see the EU flag fly alongside national flags at future Olympic Games is far from clear. The Commission plays down the idea as a "hope".

"In 2008 I hope to see the EU Member State teams in
Beijing carry the flag of the European Union alongside
their own national flag as a symbol of our unity," says
the outgoing Commission President Romano Prodi. 

Prodi's Commission spokesperson Reijo Kemppinen said
to EurActiv that this was merely a "hope" at this stage.
Education and Culture spokesperson Frederic Vincent said
that he had seen the Greek fencing team fly both their
national and the EU flag during the Games. He stressed
that there was no legal basis for the EU to be involved
in the organisational aspects of the Games and that this
was up to the International Olympic Committee, national
sports federations and national authorities. 

Reacting to the news, Dutch MEP Toine Manders says
"sport is an excellent instrument to identify your self
as citizen of a certain member state. In an
ever-enlarging Europe, people feel more and more the need
to identify themselves as a country rather than as a very
large unity which is experienced as anonymous and
threatening". 

One of the EU's main contributions to the Games was
the 'Olympic Champions of Education', in which one
participant from each country involved in the project
joined the Olympic Youth Camp. To be eligible, athletes
had to have both won a national level award in their
discipline and have excellent marks at school. 

In addition, the EU has provided structural funds to
help Greece in constructing infrastructure which has
helped spectators and competitors enjoy the
Games. 

Supporters justify the presence of the EU flag as a
"symbol of unity" while critics say that citizens see
Olympics in terms of nationalities and it should stay
that way. Various reports have emerged claiming that "the
EU won a third of the gold medals", 82 out of the 286 on
offer. A German MEP, Silvana Koch-Mehrin, is conducting
an online poll of citizens on whether or not sportspeople
from EU countries should compete in 2008 in Beijing
"unter einem gemeinsamen Erscheinungsbild" [effectively
"under a common flag"]. 

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