FLAG FAIL: An Open Letter to the IOC

Skærmbillede 2016-08-17 kl. 12.09.55

Dear International Olympic Committee. Please stop standardizing the proportions of flags. Nepal is the case in point: It’s disrespectful and looks horrible when you try to make a rectangular flag out of one that really isn’t.

The 2016 Summer Olympic Games draw to a close. As always the Olympics attracts controversy, some may even say scandal, but anyway thank you for two weeks of fierce but peaceful competition among the world’s best athletes. It has been fun to watch new records being set, team efforts and personal victories, tears and joy.

What has been no fun to watch, however, is the way the IOC and the Organizing Committee of the Rio de Janeiro Olympic and Paralympic Games have chosen to display the more than 200 flags of participating nations.

Apparently you opted for the easy solution when you decided that all flags would be displayed with exactly the same height to width ratio.

The national flag of Switzerland is square i.e. it has an aspect ratio of 1:1. (The Swiss ensign has a height to width ratio of 2:3, but it is only to be used onboard ships.) The most common flag ratios are 2:3, 3:5 and 1:2. The flag of Qatar is the world’s “longest” with an official ratio of 11:28.

At Olympic medal ceremonies national flags of the gold, silver and bronze medallists are hoisted. At indoor competitions the flags are mounted from horizontal bars. It seems all flags you used had a 2:3 ratio. Even at outdoor competitions, where flags are hoisted vertically on flag poles, flag ratios are indiscriminately 2:3.

This is a problem. It makes “short” flags like Denmark’s (with a 28:37 ratio) look elongated and “long” flags like USA’s (with a 10:19 ratio) look ridiculously compressed.

And it goes horribly wrong when the flag of Nepal, which isn’t a rectangular flag at all, is made into one by adding a huge, ugly fly of white cloth to the flag. Consisting of two merged triangular pennons the Nepalese flag is the only non-rectangular national flag in the world.

On the official Rio 2016 website Olympic mascot Vicinius is waving this misguided and disfigured version of the Nepalese flag. This is incomprehensible and inexcusable. Why not let the graphic designer draw the flag of Nepal the way it is supposed to be?

Flag proportions are set by law, decree or otherwise regulated. The design, colours, symbolism and use of national flags are also meticulously defined and should be respected at all times. Inappropriate use of national flags have the ability to offend a lot of people and cause a lot trouble.

So, please take better care in the future. See you in Tokyo 2020.


This is part 4 in a series about flags at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Read also:
What On Earth Is “Chinese Taipei”?
Rowing Blade Flags
Extracting the Essence of the Union Flag


3 thoughts on “FLAG FAIL: An Open Letter to the IOC

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