Olympics-U.S.considers dipping flag at opening ceremony

LONDON, July 26 Thu Jul 26, 2012 3:19pm EDT

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LONDON, July 26 (Reuters) - The United States may break with a controversial tradition and dip its flag to Britain's leaders at the opening ceremony for the London Olympics, U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) CEO Scott Blackmun said on Thursday.

"We've talked about that a little bit and you never know what is going to happen," said Blackmun.

"We have traditions, Britain has traditions, everybody has traditions but we're still talking internally but it is not an issue we see as a big issue."

It may not be a big issue for the USOC but it is one that stirs the emotions of many Americans.

In respect to the host nation, most countries briefly dip their flag as the athletes march past the box where dignitaries sit. For more than a century, the United States has not done so.

Dipping the flag is no longer part of official International Olympic Committee protocol but most countries continue to observe the tradition.

Fencer Mariel Zagunis, who was selected to lead the 529 member U.S. team into the Olympic Stadium on Friday, said she was aware of the tradition but had not yet discussed it with USOC officials.

"I've heard of it (the tradition) but I have yet to go through rehearsal so I'll see what I will have to do then," said Zagunis.

According to historians, the U.S. has not dipped the Stars and Stripes since 1908 when the Summer Games were first staged in London and shotputter Ralph Rose refused to lower the flag supposedly saying: "This flag dips for no earthly king."

American flag-bearers dipped the Stars and Stripes in 1912 at Stockholm, in 1924 at Paris and in 1932 at Lake Placid and Los Angeles, according to www.ushistory.org but refused to lower the flag to German Chancellor Adolf Hitler during the opening ceremony for the 1936 Berlin Games.

The U.S. has not dipped its flag ever since. (Editing by Ken Ferris)

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