Weightlifters will no longer be able to take their nation’s flag on to the podium, the head of the sport’s governing body said here today on the eve of the Asian Championships.
The embarrassing flag-burning incident at the Opening Ceremony before the European Championships in Yerevan, Armenia last month – and a controversial podium incident last year – prompted the decision, said International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) President Mohamed Jalood.
"We are a sport, we represent peace, not fighting and arguments about who is best," said Jalood at the Asian Weightlifting Federation Congress at Hotel Dong Bang in Jinju, Korea.
Jalood said he discussed the situation last week with IWF general secretary Antonio Urso and Technical Committee chair Sam Coffa before the committee agreed on a ban.
"What happened in Yerevan was taken into consideration when we talked about this," said Jalood.
Referring to an incident last year he added: "We don’t want athletes on a small podium trying to push their flags in front of each other – this is not sport."
From now on flags will still feature in medal ceremonies but as images on a screen, and no longer in the hands of athletes.
At last year’s European Junior Championships in Albania a Turkish athlete disrespected an Armenian gold medallist.
After Garik Karapetyan, one of Armenia’s best weightlifters, had been presented with his medal Emre Ozturk tried to cover up the winner’s flag with his own, left the podium during the Armenian anthem and refused to shake hands.
The European Weightlifting Federation banned flags from any podium ceremony involving Turkish and Armenian athletes for the rest of that competition, and in Yerevan three weeks ago it banned athletes’ flags outright because of the incident that made headlines worldwide.
A fashion designer ran from the crowd during the parade of nations at the Opening Ceremony of the European Championships in Yerevan, Armenia and set light to the Azerbaijan flag.
Days of political interference followed, in which various officials who have nothing to do with sport claimed that Armenia should be dropped by the IWF as a potential host for next year’s World Championships.
Armenia has no diplomatic relations with either Azerbaijan or Turkey, host nation for next year's European Championships.
While Azerbaijan's team flew home on Government orders, Turkey stayed and their federation President, Talat Unlu, praised the hosts for organising a successful Championships.
The new policy will be formally adopted by the IWF at its next Executive Board meeting.