Olympic moments: The flag

Is there a more manufactured moment in all of sports than when a medal winner parades with the American flag? It started, we think, with Bruce Jenner in 1976. Jenner was always criticized as an athlete that seemed to be using the Olympic stage as a marketing opportunity.

It’s usually the skiing, snowboarding, and speed-skating crowd that drapes themselves in the flag. You don’t usually see the figure skaters strutting about with a flag. Why not? Don’t they love America?

If the medal isn’t enough, a flag pose is great for the front page.



Shani Davis (above) shows the proper way to display a flag. Held high, not allowed to touch the ground, and not worn.


“Vail’s own” Lindsey Vonn shows the wrong way. It’s not a shawl.


Snowboarder Seth Westcott unfurled the flag and then wore it. This one had meaning for the kid. It was his grandfather’s World War II service flag.

We don’t know whether this is a trait with curlers, and we’re not likely to find out this year, either — at least with the men’s team. They’re 0-4 now after losing this afternoon to Denmark, 7-to-6..

  • John

    Colbert loves America! Or, is he being satirical?

  • JackU

    I guess I’d be interested in what happened early on, before WWI. If there was a tradition there of athletes parading with their flag after an Olympic win. Also I’d be curious about what happened in the 1950’s.

    As far as U.S. athletes are concerned I think the 1964, 1968 and 1972 games would be less likely to have strong displays of flag waving (or wearing) just be cause of the social/political climate of the times.

    Of course when Jenner won in 1976 there was more to waving the flag since it was the U.S. Bicentennial year and a lot of flag waving was being done that summer in celebration. (That doesn’t in any way counter the comment Bob made about Jenner as a marketing machine. Of course some might say the same of the new women’s downhill champion.)