The Cultural Olympiad may have been running alongside the Olympic Games in London over the last month, but the Olympic cultural legacy of the 2012 London Olympics has left a bitter taste in the mouth of the Bretons who had their flags confiscated by the Olympic Games staff.
Previously the Cornish, Scottish and Welsh flags were banned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) from being flown at the Olympic competitions, even over the national stadiums in the respective countries where the games was being played. Due to protests though the IOC overruled their earlier decision before the Games began, which allowed the flags to be flown by the stadiums and fans alike.
However Breton visitors to the games had their Breton flags confiscated by Olympic security, which outraged one supporter and reported on ABP News. Thierry Le Sommer said:
“Ils m’ont obligé, très fermement, à relâcher le drapeau et à le ranger. Ils ont prévenu la police et ont tenté de me sortir manu militari du stade… Finalement, à force de palabres j’ai pu assister à la fin du match. Nous étions surveillés en permanence.”
(“They forced me very firmly to release the flag. Ils ont prévenu la police et ont tenté de me sortir manu militari du stade… They alerted the police and tried to get me to leave… Finally, I was able to attend the match. Nous étions surveillés en permanence. We were continuously monitored.» a déclaré Thierry Le Sommer.”)
The incident was discussed on Facebook and other Bretons shared similar experiences.
Last year the newly installed Archdruid of Wales, T James Jones, called on the Olympic Committee to respect the flags of all nations who are trying to protect their identity and for the Welsh national anthem to be played, saying that “Britishness” was endangering the Welsh identity. Mr Jones added:
“I call upon Welsh institutions . . . to urge the Olympic Games Authority to raise the Welsh Dragon, not the Union Jack, above individual Welsh medal winners, and to honour Welsh gold medal winners by playing Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” [the Welsh National Anthem].
“I welcome other nations to join us in this aspiration, from Scotland to Cornwall, from Brittany to the Basque country and Catalonia, and indeed all the nations of the world that are fighting to retain their identity.”
In May 2012, campaigners accused the Olympics of cultural aggression during the Olympic torch relay route through Cornwall, following intimidating visits to Cornish activists by the police, the painting out of Cornish language signs and the forcible removal of the Cornish flag from an Olympic torch bearer by Olympic police security.
It seems that the Olympics hasn’t left much of a cultural legacy behind it, at least for those nations that do not easily fit into the mold of state and corporate sponsored identity.
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