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