- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 6, 2002

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) In a compromise balancing U.S. patriotism with Olympic protocol, the tattered American flag from ground zero will be carried at the Winter Games' opening ceremony, but not as part of the main procession.

A group of American athletes will carry the flag, joined by an honor guard of police officers and firefighters, Olympic organizers said today. "This will be a solemn, highly dignified procession," said Francois Carrard, International Olympic Committee director general.

"As the American anthem is played, it will be hoisted up and the American flag will be floated all over the world."

The IOC originally said American athletes would not be allowed to carry it, but that it could be raised as the official U.S. flag at the ceremony.

That decision was criticized, and the IOC relented on an issue that pitted the Americans' desire to honor September 11 victims and heroes against a possible appearance of jingoism at a major international event.

Mr. Carrard said the intent of the plan is to honor the victims and heroes at the ceremony Friday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Olympic organizers wanted to include police officers and firefighters to "connect them to the spirit of the Olympians," said Mitt Romney, Salt Lake chief organizer.

The flag will be carried into the stadium after the parade of athletes and before the national anthem. As host nation, the American anthem is played and the U.S. flag raised over the ceremony, along with the Olympic flag. Mr. Romney said winds or "heavy weather" could keep the flag from being raised because of its delicate condition, "but it is our intention that this flag is the flag that will be honored."

The move was welcomed by the U.S. Olympic Committee.

"The solution we have reached is viewed as excellent by the USOC," said Robert Ctrvrtlik, an American who serves as an IOC athletes' representative. "I'm sure the athletes will feel the same way."


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