Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Jingoistic Rant

You might have noticed that the meet assistants at the 2007 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships kept shoving Japanese flags in the winners' hands along with an American flag so that they could take their victory laps waving both flags. What kind of statement does that make?

First of all, let me make it clear to any Japanese readers I might have that I have absolutely nothing against Japan or its people. I have nothing but fondness, respect and admiration for Japan and its people and I look forward to watching the upcoming world championships meet in Osaka. But the IAAF World Championships and the Olympic Games are both international (inter= between" and national=of or relating to or belonging to a nation or country) events. In these events athletes who represent their nations compete against other athletes who represent their nations. I ask you, would the Athletes of the Japanese national championships be asked to wave the American flag if the World Championships were to be held in the USA? Of course not. But a spirit of politically-correct globalism seems to have overtaken much of American culture, including, apparently, the USATF National Championships.

What is the purpose of a national flag? According to Wikipedia, "a national flag is a flag that symbolises a country. The flag is flown by the government, but usually can be flown by citizens of that country as well." Notice it doesn't say "citizens of other countries" but "citizens of that country."

Just after an emotional Alan Webb won the men's 1500m run, two meet assistants surrounded him and one of them draped the American flag around his shoulders. One of them also tried to hand him the Japanese flag, but he ignored her. Even though he kept changing directions to try and avoid her, she was persistent and kept calling to him ("Hey! Alan! Alan! You have to...") and kept trying to make him take the flag while a male meet assistant blocked his way. The producers, perhaps realizing they might be showing a potentially compromising scene live, quickly cut away to a replay of the race. During his interview, Webb could be seen holding the Japanese flag, so those assistants did finally get their way. Afterwards, however, he seems to have taken a measure of revenge by irreverently holding the wooden Japanese flagstick between his teeth as he mugged for the camera.

Why the insistence by the event organizers that the athletes wave the flag of another nation? I can't imagine what kind of statement the meet organizers were trying to make. It was obvious that Webb did not want to take the flag. They were wrong to hand out the Japanese flags at the USA National Championships in the first place. They were especially wrong in forcing athletes who were obviously not comfortable doing so to wave another nation's flag. I think Alan Webb would agree with me. Here's the video of the race and the post-race shenanigans by the meet assistants.

Here's some more videos of NBC's coverage of the meet.

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