- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 6, 2002

Olympic officials have banned U.S. athletes from carrying the fragile American flag recovered from the World Trade Center in the opening ceremony of the Winter Games Friday.
The International Olympic Commitee rejected the idea Monday, saying other nations also had suffered in the terrorist attacks. It was just not "proper" for Americans to be singled out for such an honor.
"These games are held in the United States, and we have much deep respect and sympathy for everything that has happened since September 11," said IOC director Francois Carrard. "But let's not forget the games are a universal event."
The IOC has suggested the flag be raised over Rice-Eccles Stadium during the ceremony, then lowered the same night because of its delicate state.
U.S. Olympic committee director Sandy Baldwin told his international counterparts that their thinking was "clearly understandable."
Originally, the U.S. Olympic Committee had asked that a small group of American athletes be allowed in the ceremonies to cradle the damaged flag, found amid tons of rubble and debris by workers at New York City's ground zero. It has since become a potent symbol of American spirit and determination.
Salt Lake Organizing Committee President Mitt Romney has proposed that the flag be used in a tribute before the opening ceremonies.
The main ceremony, Mr. Romney told the Guardian newspaper in England, was "not designed to be a patriotic American display. While the experience of 9/11 certainly impacts on all of us, there should not be a direct tribute in the ceremony itself This is not our time to talk about how great America is."
Condoms and showbiz, meanwhile, are welcome. About 250,000 condoms will be given to Olympics visitors in "safe sex packs," courtesy of SafeGames 2002, an umbrella organization of 14 Utah health groups. Along with volunteers, the Red Cross will dole out the packs both inside and outside the Games grounds.
The opening hoopla will feature a cast of 5,000, music acts of every description and the introduction of "the character of a child who will be used as a theme thoughout the Games," according to the event's creative director, Scott Givens.
The Games will be televised on NBC through Feb. 24. The network, has vowed to cover the Games "as if they were a great coming together,'' according to NBC President Randy Falco.
"The terrorist attacks on America have put NBC in a bind, as the network searches for middle ground between feel-good globalism and coast-to-coast jingoism," observed Salon writer Bruce Kluger yesterday.
"If the fallout from September 11 has taught us anything, it's that America tends to look at the world through red-white-and-blue-colored glasses, touting the glories of her own culture at the expense of understanding the complexities and richness of others."
Which seems to be the prevailing sentiment across the board.
"Every country in the IOC has issues," American IOC member Anita DeFrantz told the Associated Press yesterday. "As Americans we have to understand it's a world event and also that we are a guest even though we are the host nation. This way, with the flag being raised, we serve both goals."
It remains a fine line to walk.
"You, the American public, are the United States Olympic Committee," reads the group's credo at its Web site (www.usoc.com).
"The athletic successes already achieved are for you; the future triumphs on the world stage will be achieved with you; and the final step to the top of the podium to receive the gold will be made possible by you," the statement concludes.
The abbreviated role of the ground zero flag in the Olympics, meanwhile, is inspiring fierce reactions after the story was featured late yesterday on the Drudge Report (www.drudgereport.com), Fox News Channel, the Associated Press and the online news site Lucianne.com (www.lucianne.com).
"If you don't like it, don't come ," read one of many messages to French officials at Lucianne.com.
The flag was given to American Legion Post 433 in New Providence, N.J., by an anonymous donor and presented to New York City Port Authority Police. It flew at Yankee Stadium during last year's World Series and was featured Sunday during the national anthem at the Super Bowl.

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