The Union Jack Was Wrong At The Rio Olympics And No One Noticed


Fun fact: The ‘Union Jack’ is actually only called the ‘Union Jack’ if it’s at sea. If it’s on land, it’s technically the ‘Union Flag’. But we decided on ‘Union Jack’ for the title, because we’re rebels. 

I hope you’re sitting down, because I’m about to drop some flag knowledge on you (which I picked up today but whatever.)

Rio faced some controversy during the recent Summer Olympics when China pointed out that they had printed the Chinese flag wrong. The red and yellow flag features one big and four smaller stars on a red background. The four smaller stars on the Brazilian-made flags were at the wrong angle, and Chinese viewers were outraged.


Apparently, fans from the United Kingdom are far, far less observant – and failed to notice that the Union Flag used during the 67 medal ceremonies in which Great British athletes were on the podium was actually also incorrect.

… Including the British Olympic and Paralympic committees. Awks.

The one guy who did notice, however, was Chief Vexillologist (AKA Head of Flags) at The Flag Institute Graham Bartram.

He spoke to Gizmodo about the issues with the flags used in the ceremonies, which will presumably also be used for the Paralympic ceremonies also.

He produced this diagram to demonstrate the difference between the actual flag and the one being used at ceremonies in Rio:

Image: Graham Bartram

Image: Graham Bartram

See, the diagonal parts are supposed to be a lot thicker?

Admittedly, it’s definitely a very subtle mistake – but a mistake all the same. Flags are an important symbol of each nation, and even I (a typically unpatriotic Brit) got a bit choked up seeing it rise to the top every time we won a gold medal, to the sound of the national anthem of which I know about three words.

Still a bit sceptical? Here’s the flag used when Andy Murray won his second Olympic gold medal in Men’s Singles Tennis, up against the official design for the flag.


Bartram has contacted the Rio Organising Committee, the British Olympic and Paralympic committees, and even the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to no avail. So it looks like they’ll be using the incorrect flags for the Paralympics!

What do you think? Let us know in the comments

Lead image: Youtube / BBC Sport

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