Nadal Olympic flag vote ruffles Spanish sailors’ pride

Greater-medaled 49er pair had been guaranteed honor under previously agreed rules

Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal waves during the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal waves during the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.REUTERS

The Spanish Olympic Committee (COE) announcement that Rafael Nadal will carry the national flag at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games has caused something of a stir as it had been previously expected that the yachtsmen Iker Martínez and Xabi Fernández would be handed the honor.

According to the CEO’s regulations, the athlete with the most Olympic medals carries the flag. As a flag-bearer cannot perform the task twice, canoeist David Cal was ruled out, leaving Martínez and Fernández as the next most decorated athletes. The pair won gold in Athens and silver in Beijing in the 49er class.

However, a unanimous vote among COE members decided that Nadal, who will defend his Beijing gold in London, should bear the flag. The news has not been received warmly by the sailors’ entourage: “Why was there a vote if there is a clear regulation?”

It had already been decided between the pair that Martínez would carry the flag on behalf of them both, and despite the 49er event beginning just three days after the opening ceremony on the other side of England, neither had renounced the honor.

“Nobody at the COE bothered to call them,” say sources in their camp. The CEO justified its decision by noting that Martínez and Fernández participate in a team sport, not an individual one. The regulation also states the flag bearer should have qualified for the Games: the 49er pair occupy the place secured by Federico and Arturo Alonso at the 2011 World Championship.

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