Olympic Flagbearers – Parade of Nations and More

Aug 7th, 2016

The Parade of Nations is a traditional part of the opening ceremony that kicks off the Olympic Games. Flagbearers carry their country’s flag accompanied by participating athletes and march into the stadium country by country. The athletes are not required to participate in the parade, and many who are scheduled to compete in the events that begin immediately after the Opening Ceremony chose forgo the ceremonies.




One of the athletes from each country is chosen to be the flagbearer for their own country. It is an Olympic athlete’s highest award. In the United States, a voting committee is formed that institutes a voting system designed to choose an athlete to carry the American flag in the Parade of Nations. The one chosen is directed to carry the flag with “pride and honor”.


Another tradition in the Parade of Nations is for flagbearers to dip their country's flag to the head of state of the country that is hosting the Olympic Games. The United States has refused to dip its national flag 1936 when the head of state for the summer games was Adolf Hitler. In 1942, the United States Flag Code was enacted.




Among other prohibitions, the Code, 4 U.S.C. § 8 dictate that: “No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America; the flag should not be dipped to any person or thing. Regimental colors, state flags, and organization or institutional flags are to be dipped as a mark of honor.”


The United States flag has not been dipped on any occasion since the enactment of that statute. The Code effectively erased any controversy about the reason the United States will not dip its flag to any person or thing. It should be noted that the Flag Code is a guide on how the United States national flag should be respected, rather than a law with criminal penalties if any part of the code is violated. In fact, the portion of the Code relating to destruction of the flag has been found unconstitutional by Congress. See our blog post Why it is Legal to Disrespect the United States Flag.


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