Tour de France: Flags of the West

Skærmbillede 2018-07-11 kl. 06.12.35

The seven first stages of this year’s Tour de France are set in the West of France. Besides the blue-white-red French tricolour, two flags fly prominently along the route: the red and white flag of Vendée and the black and white flag of Brittany. 

In 2017, the Tour never came to western and northern France. In 2018, however, the Tour starts off in the West – le Grand Départ was on the island of Noirmoutier on the Atlantic coast on July 7 – and a total of ten out of twenty-one Tour stages are in the West and the North. Traditionally, the last stage of the Tour, which will be on July 29 this year, ends on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris.

Vendée

The first two stages of the 105th edition of the Tour de France were in the department of the Vendée in the western Pays de la Loire region. The third stage was the team time trial in Cholet, a town in the department of Maine-et-Loire.

Quite close to Vendée, but historically in the Duchy of Anjou, Cholet was the capital of la Vendée Militaire, a Royalist and Catholic uprising during the French Revolution in 1793. The Vendean forces used le Sacré-Coeur, the Sacred Heart of Jesus – a heart with a cross rising from it – as a symbol on their banners and on patches on their clothes.

Two hearts, intertwined and crowned, with a crosslet on top is known as a Coeur vendéen, a Vendean heart. This emblem, used in the region since the 13th Century, is the official logo of the Vendée today.

In 1944 a newly designed coat of arms for the department was officially recognised. It has a red Vendean heart on silver within a bordure of fleurs de lys, gold on blue, for France, and golden castles with three towers on red, for Poitou, the historical French province to which Vendée once belonged.

The modern departmental flag of the Vendée is a red-white vertical bicolour with an asymmetric version of the Vendean heart in the middle. This logo was designed by French designer Michel Disle and adopted by the departmental assembly on 18 September 1989.

Brittany

Stage 4-6 of the 2018 Tour de France are all in the region of Brittany or in areas of western France which was part of that region historically. Stage 7 will begin in Fougères in Brittany and end in Chartres in the Central Region of France on July 13.

The flag of Brittany was designed in 1923 by the Breton separatist politician Morvan Marchal. Its name in Breton, a Celtic language unrelated to French, is Gwenn-ha-du meaning “the white and black”. Today, the flag of Brittany is no longer seen as a sign of Breton nationalism, but rather as a symbol of Brittany and Bretons worldwide.

The Gwenn-ha-du has nine horizontal stripes of white and black representing the nine original dioceses of Brittany: five French speaking and four Breton speaking. Today, less than 5 % of the population in Brittany speak Breton.

In the upper inner corner of the flag there is a canton of ermine. In heraldry, ermine is not a colour or a metal, but a fur: on a white background the black-tipped tails of the stout. From 1316 the coat of arms of the Dukes of Brittany was a shield of ermine. So, for more than seven hundred years ermine has been connected to the region, and from beer bottles to policemen’s uniforms white and black ermine signifies all things Breton.

 

Read also: Tour de France: A Festival of Regional Flags and The Regional Flags of the 2017 Tour de France.

 

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This Boy Got A Camel Through the Eye of a Needle

Skærmbillede 2018-07-04 kl. 07.25.19

FIFA 2018 is nearing the quarter-finals. During the group stage 9 days ago, a Russian newspaper told the story of a boy and his family who almost got in trouble because of the flag of their home town. Stadium security guards check every flag and banner at the World Cup in the search of “materials of extremist, offensive or discriminatory nature”. 

The Martynenko family from Chelyabinsk had tickets for the Germany-Sweden match on June 23 at the Olympic Stadium in Sochi. With them the family had brought their city flag and the Russian national tricolour with the inscription Chelyabinsk. At the entrance to the stadium the family was stopped and questioned because of the city flag that none of the guards recognized.

“Their job is to look for propaganda of prohibited, extremist organizations, and insulting inscriptions. Our flag with a camel was nearly taken away,” Yevgeny Martynenko told Komsomolskaya Pravda, a Russian tabloid newspaper.

The guards summoned an expert who also did not know the camel and its connection to Chelyabinsk. “I had to use the internet to prove it to them,” Yevgeny Martynenko explained.

Chelyabinsk is a city with approximately 1 million inhabitants just to east of the Ural Mountains, the border between Asia and Europe. The city’s coat of arms and banner depict a golden camel in front of a silver crenellated wall. The camel, which also appears in the arms of Chelyabinsk Oblast, represents the old trading routes passing through the area from Central Russia and the Volga Region to the steppes, Siberia and China.

Russia is the host of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Russian authorities and stadium security personel do their best to keep controversial flags and banners away from no less than 64 football matches played in 12 stadiums over four and a half weeks.

According to the Stadium Code of Conduct for the World Cup in Russia, all flags with Nazi symbols and attributes of extremist organisations are prohibited as well as any flag which discriminates against a country or person or group “based on race, colour of skin, ethnic, national or social background and wealth, birth or any other status, gender, disability, language, religion, political opinion or any other opinion, sexual orientation or on any other grounds”.

Under such rules almost all flags that are not the national flags of the 32 qualified countries can be prohibited, and so far all Russian and foreign flags with extreme nationalist, separatist, religious and right or left wing ideological messages have been kept well out of view of the television cameras.

International visitors to the World Cup have had similar experiences as the Martynenkos from Chelyabinsk when guards have been unwilling to let in regional and county flags wrongly deemed to be sectarian or carrying controversial political messages. For example, read the story of England fan Daniel Henery here.

Yevgeny Martynenko and his family were let in to watch the match between Sweden and Germany in Sochi, and his son Semyon proudly carried their city flag in the stadium and afterwards. Back home in Chelyabinsk he will now wave the flag with the camel in front of the TV to support the Russian team in the knockout stage.