Union Jacks at Glasgow 2014: The Enduring Britishness of the CommonwealthTweet
In this article Alistair McConnachie discovers that one third of the competitors at Glasgow 2014 have the Union Jack as a flag of their country. That means we can look forward to having every reason to fly it this summer! One of the competitors, St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, even has the entire Union Jack as its official flag.
Photograph: The Cross of St George, The Flag of the Falkland Islands and the Flag of Fiji in the grounds of Kelvingrove Museum, host of the Bowling, 6-7-14. Photo copyright Alistair McConnachie.
Updated on 11 July 2014 and posted originally on 14 April 2014.
As this article is being updated, the Queen's Baton Relay is presently touring Scotland and it's due to arrive in Glasgow on Sunday 20th July for 3 days, prior to the Opening Ceremony of the Commonwealth Games on 23rd July.
The Baton carries the Queen's Message to the Commonwealth and it has already toured every competing nation world-wide. The Queen will receive the Baton and read out the Message at the Opening Ceremony.
Some pro-UK people have been concerned that the Games might encourage some sort of upsurge in nationalist support in the run-up to the referendum.
That, however, is quite unlikely. As we always remind people, the Commonwealth is awash with pro-British sentiment and spirit.
Although it is no longer officially termed "the British Commonwealth" – and although it was rebranded to simply "the Commonwealth" – it is still undeniably a creation of the United Kingdom and it continues to exist today because the UK is at the heart of it.
It is an institution created by Britain, which exercises a force for good in the world today. These Games in Glasgow are just one expression of that good on the world stage.
As we have already shown, the Queen is the Head of State of half of the competitors!
She is also the official "Head of the Commonwealth", a symbolic role which exercises a unifying effect.
Here is another remarkable British fact about these Games.
Of the 71 competitors, a third of them either have the Union Jack as their National Flag, or have it on their flag, or have it as their Royal Flag or as a Diplomatic or Ceremonial flag.
We list and illustrate them in this article. We also explain the relevance of flying the Union Jack at these Games. But first, let us explain who is all competing.
EXPLAINING the 71 COMPETITORS
There are 53 Members - including the UK - of what used to be known as "the British Commonwealth" even though there will be 71 competing teams.
This is because the 71 includes the following 19 competitors: 9 of the 14 British Overseas Territories which have not left what remains of the British Empire and so are not "members of the Commonwealth". They are Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Island, Gibraltar, Montserrat, St. Helena Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
There is also Norfolk Island which is a territory of Australia, and the Cook Islands, and Niue, which are two non-sovereign states in free association with New Zealand. These 3 are not official members of the Commonwealth in their own right, but are entitled to compete on their own as a consequence of their close association with Commonwealth members Australia and New Zealand.
England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are not members of the Commonwealth in their own right but compete separately at the Games. Finally, the 3 Crown Dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man compete separately too. They are not members of the Commonwealth in their own right, but are considered within the ambit of the UK.
Now, let's list the 23 Competitors who have the Union Jack as their National Flag, or have it on their flag, or have it as their Royal Flag or as a Diplomatic or Ceremonial flag; with illustrations to emphasise our point.
THE UNITED KINGDOM COMPETITORS
Firstly, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have the Union Jack as their National Flag. When you run the Union Jack up the flagpole you're also running up Scotland's flag, or England's flag, or Northern Ireland's flag, or Wales's flag.
Anyone from any part of the UK, who wants to show support also for any other part of the United Kingdom - even though the teams are playing separately at these Games - can still wave the Union Jack.
THE CROWN DEPENDENCIES
Many people in the Crown Dependencies identify with the Union Jack as the flag of the United Kingdom. However, in addition, the Crown Dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man all have the Union Jack included in their diplomatic and ceremonial flags.
The Civil and Government Ensigns of Jersey both include the Union Jack, as does the flag of the Lieutenant Governor of Jersey (above).
A civil ensign is a flag flown by civil ships to denote nationality. A government, or state, ensign is a flag flown by government ships at sea. A Lieutenant Governor is an officer of the state and is the Queen's representative. The role of the Lieutenant Governor is to act as the liaison between the government of the particular Crown Dependency and the United Kingdom. The duties are primarily diplomatic and ceremonial.
The Civil and Government Ensigns of Guernsey both include the Union Jack as does the flag of the Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey (above).
The Civil Ensign of the Isle of Man, and the flag of the Lieutenant Governor of the Isle of Man (above) both include the Union Jack.
Therefore, it is correct to say that the 3 Crown Dependencies all fly the Union Jack in some form.
THE BRITISH OVERSEAS TERRITORIES
Nine of the 14 British Overseas Territories will be competing. 1
Their flags are illustrated below
British Virgin Islands
Gibraltar does not have the Union Jack on its flag. However it does have the Union Jack incorporated in the State Ensign, the Civil Ensign and the Governor of Gibraltar flag. Furthermore, the Union Jack itself often flies on its own and at the border with Spain. The above picture is at "Europa Point". Therefore, although the official flag does not include the Union Jack, Gibraltar is definitely a place which flies the Union Jack. Furthermore, many civilians in Gibraltar enthusiastically fly the Union Jack themselves, and decorate places in red, white and blue.
St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha flies the Union Jack as the official flag of the overall territory. In addition, the three administrative divisions each have their own flags with the Union Jack in the top left hand corner.
Turks and Caicos Islands
THE COMMONWEALTH REALMS
There are 15 Commonwealth Realms, not including the United Kingdom. These are countries which have since left the British Empire, but retained the Queen as the Head of State. The following have national flags which include the Union Jack.
Australia In addition, the state flags of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia all have the Union Jack in the top left hand corner.
The national flag of Canada is the Maple Leaf. However, the Union Jack remains an official flag of Canada and it is referred to as the "Royal Union Flag". It flies above the Provincial Legislatures of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick (pic, above), Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan.
British Columbia, Manitoba and Ontario all have the Union Jack on their individual flags too, while the flag of Newfoundland features a stylised version of the Union Jack. The Union Jack also appears on the flags of the Lieutenant Governors of British Columbia and also Nova Scotia. 2
The Cook Islands is composed of 15 Islands and is a non-sovereign state in free association with New Zealand. The Cook Islands is not a member of the Commonwealth in its own right, but is a member through New Zealand. It plays separately at the Games.
Niue is a non-sovereign state in free association with New Zealand. Niue is not a member of the Commonwealth in its own right, but is a member through New Zealand. It plays separately at the Games.
The stars in the flag of Tuvalu represent the 9 Islands which make up Tuvalu.
Therefore, if we add all these together we have 4 Home Nations, 3 Crown Dependencies, 9 British Overseas Territories, 4 Commonwealth Realms and 2 associated states, and one other Commonwealth nation. In total 23 out of 71 competitors (32%).
That is to say, essentially one third of competitors at Glasgow 2014 either fly the Union Jack as their National Flag, have the Union Jack on their National Flag, or fly the Union Jack as their Royal, Diplomatic or Ceremonial Flag.
One third of the competitors at Glasgow 2014 have the Union Jack as a flag of their country!
That's wonderful, and only goes to show the enduring Britishness of these Games.
FLYING the UNION JACK at the GAMES
The above represents 23 reasons to fly the Union Jack at these Games, but here are some more.
While it is usual to fly the Union Jack at events and celebrations which have a Team playing for the UK itself - for example, supporting Team GB at the Olympics - it is also the case that the Union Jack can be used:
1- to represent each Home Nation on its own, or
2- by one Home Nation to show support for another part of the UK.
Let's look at the first point: While Scotland's flag is the Cross of St Andrew, it is also the Union Jack. So the Union Jack can be flown whenever Scotland is competing too, and can be flown to represent Scotland or show support for Scotland.
When we want to fly a flag to support Scotland we tend to think of flying the Saltire only, but it would be just as proper to fly the Union Jack because the Union Jack is also Scotland's flag; just as the Union Jack is also England's flag. That fact has been forgotten, or has got confused with the passage of time
To take the second point - here's a question: If there is an event in which an English, Northern Irish or Welsh athlete is competing and there is no Scottish athlete; yet a Scottish spectator wants to show support for that fellow Briton, or indeed has no favourites and wants to support all of the Home Nation athletes – then which flag should he or she wave?
For example, if we want to support Mo Farah – who will be running for England – then, rather than waving a Cross of St George, what flag should we wave?
(Since this article was written we have been sorry to hear that Mo Farah has had to pull out of the Games.)
The Union Jack is the obvious answer! That seems more natural to many Scots than waving a Cross of St George.
The Union Jack is the appropriate flag to fly to support a fellow Briton.
So, if you are going along to the Queen's Baton Relay, or any events at the Commonwealth Games – be sure to wear some Union Jack gear to show support for all our athletes, or take along a Union Flag, or pack a Union Jack umbrella, in case it rains. It is all very appropriate attire at these British Wealth that we Have in Common Games!
You can view the remaining schedule for the Queen's Baton Relay here.
HOW to FLY the UNION FLAG
The broader white diagonal stripe should be uppermost in the corner at the top of the flagpole. For example, in the pictures above, imagine the flag pole is to the left of the flag.
HOW to HOLD the UNION FLAG
In this case, you are the flag pole. So, if you are holding the flag in front or behind you, or pinning it to something, then it is customary to present the flag to the viewer in the same way. That means you would hold the broad white stripe in the upper corner in your right hand, or pin it to a wall with the upper corner facing the viewer on the top left, as in these pictures.
If there is an edging down the side of the flag where it would attach to the flag pole, or gimlets (holes in the fabric) where it would be attached to the flag pole – then imagine that the side with the edging or gimlets is the flag pole itself – and again hold it, or pin it up, as above.
However, if it has edging or gimlets then it can still technically be held properly with the upper corner with the broad white stripe in your left hand, since a flag on a flagpole can be viewed from two different sides. Nevertheless, it is customary to hold it, or pin it to a wall, face-on to the viewer with the broad white stripe as shown above.
Below is a picture of the Union Jack at the Opening Ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002.
We've been pleased to notice quite a few Union Flags, and apparel at the Games. We've also noticed a lot of nationalists on social media complaining about its presence!
They say "it is not a recognised flag of a competing country" (because the UK as one country is not competing). So, in addition to the above, we say this to them:
1. It is a recognised flag of a competing country. Scotland is a competing country and the Union Jack is also its flag. The Union Flag is a "recognised flag" of Scotland. It is a recognised flag of a competing country! How obvious is that. But it has to be said!
2. The Games are being held in the UK. It is the flag of the UK. Obvious, again!
3. While representing the Home Nations individually, it also represents them collectively, and can be flown to indicate support for the other Home Nations, and all the countries above.
4. The Games came out of "the British Commonwealth". Britain is at the centre of this. It is Britain's flag. So, it is entirely appropriate for it to be on display at a Commonwealth event. The fact that it is no longer explicitly termed "the British Commonwealth Games" probably leads to this confusion. Some people might not even know that it used to be called that, and that it came out of "the British Empire Games".
5. Britain is the member nation of the Commonwealth, not Scotland, England, Northern Ireland or Wales separately, and so the Union Flag is very appropriate to be flown at any Commonwealth event.
6. The Queen is the Head of the Commonwealth. It is entirely appropriate to fly it whenever a member of the Royal Family is present.
Given all the points above, the question is not "why is it flying?" but rather why are we not seeing more of it? Why is it not everywhere? Why is it not flying above every stadium?
Below: The Union Jack at the Opening Ceremony of the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh.
(1) The five which are not in a position to send athletes are the British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, Pitcairn Island, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, all of which have the Union Jack on their flags, and the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekeli which flies the Union Jack itself.
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