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"OLD GLORY," 1908           

Did you know that the American Flag, known as "Old Glory," is never dipped at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games and that the man responsible was an Irishman'?

It all happened this way. 

 

The Games, the fourth of the modern era, had been given to London and the organisers, in their wisdom, had decided that all the judges should be British.  This was a clear recipe for disaster and soon all the nations were up in arms with their hosts.  The practice of the British judges of holding the heat-draws in secret and the blatant coaching of their athletes by the host's officials, through megaphones, soon led to scores of complaints and objections.  By the end of the games everyone was at war with the Brits.  But things went wrong right from the opening ceremony which took place in the presence of the King and Queen of England.  The band of the Grenadier Guards played martial tunes; 2,000 doves were released as a symbol of peace between the 22 competing nations and then the teams paraded into Shepherd's Bush stadium.  The flags of 21 nations waved from the flagpoles surrounding the stadium, but one was missing - the flag of the U.S.A.  The organisers said that they were sorry but that they couldn't find one anywhere.  The Americans were furious - but what could they do?  Enter our Irishman!  The athlete chosen to carry the American flag was Martin Sheridan, considered at the time to be the world's finest athlete.  Sheridan, pictured at right, was born in Bohola, Co. Mayo, in 1881 and was a policeman in New York City.  He died at the early age of 36 years but in his short life he won nine Olympic medals, five gold and three silver and he set five world records in the Discus throw.  He was also an outstanding Decathlete and he won the all-around championship of the world in 1905, 1907 and 1909.  It is interesting to note that the 1904 champion was Tom Kiely from Carrick-on-Suir.  But as well as being a great champion, Sheridan was also a man who knew a snub when he saw one.  As each nation's athletes passed the reviewing stand their flag-bearer dipped their nation's flag in honour of the king, but when Sheridan reached that point he held the flag up high and refused to dip it.  He said later, "This flag dips to no earthly king," establishing a tradition that has endured through every Olympic opening ceremony since