Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Where flags of convenience figure large

January 22, 2010

At the European figure skating championships this week I kept wondering how it was possible that whichever skater was on the ice, there always seemed to be lots of fans waving just the right flag.

And then I spotted the lady who had been jiggling her Union Jack quickly folding it up and taking out her German flag and wafting that around with just as much enthusiasm.

Then I noticed the blue, white and red pompoms — very handy to shake in support of Dutch, Russian, French or British skaters.

Can you imagine wearing a Tottenham Hotspur shirt and taking it off to reveal an Arsenal shirt? And then putting it back on when Spurs score? It doesn’t even bear thinking about.

So it seems that figure skating is more about the skaters than the countries they represent.

And you can see why — so many have competed for other countries before the one they have adopted. It’s just as well supporters have a supply of different flags to keep up with them.

Pairs skater Aliona Savchenko used to represent Ukraine before switching to Germany, Israeli ice dancers Sasha and Roman Zaretsky were born in Belarus, while American Allison Reed competes in ice dance for Georgia and her brother and sister represent Japan.

It would probably be easier in Vancouver just to wave an Olympic flag.

PHOTO: Alexandra Zaretsky and Roman Zaretsky of Israel perform during the Ice Dance Compulsory Dance at the European Figure Skating Championships in Tallinn, January 19, 2010. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor

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