The EU Commission and Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for Slovenian athletes to fly the bloc’s flag last week. But the sports international body brutally rejected the proposal.
An IOC spokesperson said that “an Olympic team can only use one flag, one emblem and one anthem adopted by its National Olympic Committee and approved by the IOC Executive Board.”
They added: “For obvious reasons, there are no exceptions allowed, as the IOC would then face numerous requests from numerous institutions who like the European Union, share the values which are at the core of the Olympic Games.
“When the athletes from 205 National Olympic Committees and the IOC Refugee Olympic Team come together in Tokyo, they will send a powerful message of peace, solidarity and resilience to the world.
“The IOC shares these values of solidarity and peace with the European Union.”
In response, EU Commissioner Margaritis Schinas tweeted: “It won’t happen this time round but I am confident the rules will catch up with our values soon enough.”
He added in French: “Our Union, like no other, is strength. Next step Paris 2024.”
Slovenia is currently holding the EU Council’s rotating presidency.
Mr Jansa and Mr Schinas had said that carrying the EU flag at the Olympics opening ceremony would “render Slovenian athletes ambassadors for European unity and the values underpinning our Union, which match those of the Olympic movement”.
READ MORE: Olympics 2020: How to watch the opening ceremony for Tokyo 2020
The Tokyo Olympics opens today with a ceremony reflecting a Games like no other, walking a fine line between celebrating the feats of the world’s best athletes while acknowledging the global hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Postponed for a year, organisers were forced to take the unprecedented step of holding the Games without fans as the pandemic continues to take lives around the world.
Even the opening ceremony, normally a star-studded display teeming with celebrities, will have fewer than 1,000 people in attendance.
Regardless, it marks a coming together of the world, with an audience of hundreds of millions around the globe and at various stages of the pandemic expected to tune into together to watch the start of the greatest show in sport.
It will cap a rollercoaster 18 months of preparations for the athletes hoping to realise their career dreams.
Some will use the occasion to make statements about equality and justice and several nations will be represented by a man and a woman after the organisers changed their rules to allow two flagbearers.
Australia’s co-flag bearer Patty Mills said that as “a proud Indigenous man,” bearing the flag took on a particular meaning.
“It’s identity, it’s being able to showcase who you are throughout the world. It’s one of those things that makes you proud of who you are. We have definitely come a long way for Australian sport and it’s special.”