I am sure Amy Bass knew this, but I did not. During the opening ceremonies, the United States is the only country whose Olympic team does not dip its flag when passing the box containing the leaders of the host nation. The tradition–a clear manifestation of American exceptionalism–goes back to 1908.
David Wharton explains it all at the LA Times. Here is a taste:
Most Olympic teams briefly lower their colors as a sign of respect when they march past the box where the host nation’s leaders are seated. The U.S. does not.
When the Americans pick a flag bearer for the 2012 London Olympics this week, he or she almost certainly will be advised to uphold a tradition that dates back more than a century.
According to popular legend, shotputter Ralph Rose set the tone at the 1908 Summer Games — also held in London — when he supposedly proclaimed: “This flag dips for no earthly king.”
To the rest of the world, it seemed like blatant nationalism. The truth of the matter, and the history of America’s refusal to dip, is far more complicated than that.
I wonder if this non-dipping practice will have any deeper resonance this year. After all, the Olympics are in England! You know–1776 and all that.