Why the US doesn’t dip the flag at the Olympics
Feb 03, 2022
The 2022 Winter Olympics take place in Beijing, China. Before the Olympic games officially begin, there is an opening ceremony. According to the International Olympic Committee, the purpose of the opening and closing ceremonies is to, “invite people to discover the culture of the country in which the Games are taking place.” It is also a chance for each country participating to show the world their athletes and get everyone in the spirit for the games.
One thing you may notice in the Olympic opening ceremony is teams around the world parading and briefly lowering their flags in a show of respect as they pass the host nation’s officials. But if you pay close attention to our flag and athletes, you’ll see that Team USA will not lower the flag. In fact, it’s been a long-standing tradition for the United States to ignore this tradition. But why?
Well, legend has it that it started over 100 years ago in 1908 at the London Olympics. Ralph Rose was Team USA’s flag bearer at the Olympic opening ceremony and he refused to dip the flag to King Edward VII. There are a couple of theories as to why Rose refused to dip the flag. The first is that he proclaimed, “This flag dips for no earthly king.” However, there is no historical evidence that Ralph Rose actually said this. The second theory is that as an Irish-American, Rose was protesting the fact that Northern Ireland athletes had to compete under the British flag. No one really knows for sure why Ralph Rose refused to dip the American flag at the London Olympics, but one thing is for sure – this act was criticized around the world.
Interestingly enough, not dipping the American flag did not become a solid tradition until 1936. After 1908, Team USA would go back and forth between dipping and not dipping. They lowered the flag at the 1912 Sweden Olympics and 1924 Paris Olympics. It was not until both winter and summer Olympics were held in Germany in 1936 under Hitler and the Nazi Party’s control. There was talk of the United States protesting the games all together. After eventually deciding to participate, Team USA announced they would not lower the American flag to Hitler. This is where the tradition really took hold.
Over the years, other nations also stopped dipping their nations’ flag. In fact, at the 1992 Albertville, France Winter Olympics 60 out of the 64 countries participating did not dip their flag. Most nations are back to dipping their flags, but the United States is holding strong to the tradition of not dipping the American flag.
Whether Ralph Rose refused to dip the flag because it “dips for no earthly king” or in protest of the Irish athletes competing under the British flag, one thing is certain – he embodies the American spirit. He was the start of this long-standing American tradition, even if it took a while for it to take hold. Be sure to show your pride for Team USA by flying a 100% real, made in America, American flag.