Last week, Pedro Oiarzabal, Research Scholar on Migration Studies at the Pedro Arrupe Human Rights Institute, brought us a heart-warming story about Wyoming’s Johnson County, where a flag was designed to commemorate the State Fair’s 100th anniversary, depicting the Ikurrina (Basque flag) with the county’s seal in the center, as a way to honor the county’s Basque origins.
Unfortunately, not all stories about the Basque flag that surfaced last week are so wonderful. A few days ago, several newspapers reported that officials at the Olympic venues in London 2012 were urging spectators to hide the Basque or Breton flags. In the end, and contrary to the initial reports, only the flag of the Breton athlete was confiscated.
Asier Jon Odriozola, a Basque with strong ties to Boise (he used to live here 20 years ago), got in touch with A Basque in Boise to share a similar – and very disturbing – experience.
After reading the first incident reports in disbelief, he checked the regulations to find out which one the officials used to make their decision. Asier is planning to be at the games this weekend with his family and wanted to display the Ikurrina in support of Basque athletes.
On the last paragraph of the list of prohibited and restricted items it says:
“Flags of countries not participating in the Games (this excludes the flags of nations under the umbrella of a participating country such as England, Scotland and Wales)”
According to the rule, the Basque Country flag should be allowed as it’s under the umbrella of a participating country, Spain. However, to make sure they wouldn’t get into trouble, Asier’s wife, Carol, called the Olympic help line, where a volunteer’s answers unfortunately showed, once again, the international perception of Basques as ‘separatists’ or ‘terrorists’ as a ‘fair’ justification to ban the Ikurrina. The volunteer ended the phone call by saying that he was there to help, and to go ahead and take the flag if they wanted to, but that it was their problem if it got confiscated.
Obviously upset at the rudeness of the volunteer, Asier called the Olympic Committee Press Office asking for clarification. Shortly afterwards he received confirmation that the Basque flag is, indeed, allowed at the game.
Asier has placed the message on his blog and Twitter page. He also contacted the Basque press so other Basques headed to London could print the permit and take their Basque flags without fear of having them confiscated or getting themselves arrested. He has created a Flickr group as well, where he welcomes everybody to post pictures of themselves with the Ikurrina at the London Olympic Games 2012.
Asier and his UK family will be supporting all Basque Athletes and Team GB. He encourages all of American-Basques to support their national teams, as well as the athletes from the old country, and asks that you share this information to let everyone know that Basque national heritage can’t be hidden and deserves to be respected and take its place at the table of nations and on the Olympic podium.
- Oral History Workshop in Boise, Idaho – Friday, August 10
- Just do it!