AUGUST 4 - IF WELSH swimmer David Davies (pictured) or Scottish tennis player Andy Murray win medals at the Beijing Olympics, as they are tipped to do, then their fans had better not celebrate by waving their country's flags.
That is because Beijing Olympic officials have introduced strict rules banning the display of certain symbols at the Games which will mean that British spectators will be able only to wave the Union flag and not those of the individual Home Nations.
Amnesty International claims the measure has been introduced to ensure no flags of Chinese-governed Tibet are displayed by independence campaigners.
The Organising Committee guidelines states that spectators should not bring the following to any events: “Flags of non-members of the Olympics or Paralympics; flags or banners larger than 2mx1m; flagpoles; any banners, slogans, fliers, brochures or samples.”
Scottish Nationalist Party MSP Jamie Hepburn is writing to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the British Olympic Association, urging them to challenge the ruling.
He said: "Athletes from across Scotland and the rest of the UK will be taking part in the Beijing Olympics, and fans should be allowed to show their support by waving the national flag of their choice.
"With participants like Andy Murray often wearing Saltires on their kit as a symbol of national pride it will be a shame if fans are not able to echo that by waving Saltires from the stands.
"I will be writing to the British Olympic Association and the International Olympic Committee and urging them to challenge this ruling."
But the BOA said that the ruling was not new.
They said: "The International Olympic Committee state that flags which could be interpreted as a political gesture are not allowed inside any Olympic venue, as this would be in breach of Rule 51 of the Olympic Charter.
"As such, only flags from countries that participate in the Olympic Games are allowed by the IOC.
"At the Olympic Games we compete as Team GB (Great Britain and Northern Ireland)."Hepburn still wants the situation for sportsmen and women competing in the Games to be clarified.
At the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002 Scottish skier Alain Baxter received a warning from the IOC after he had the blue and white Saltire dyed into hair.
The IOC considered it a "political statement".
Hepburn said: "On previous occasions Scottish athletes have been prevented from sporting a Saltire – it would be unfortunate where any athlete to find themselves in that position again.
"The Olympics should be a global celebration of different cultures and nationalities with this meeting in Beijing offering an opportunity for dialogue over the future of Tibet.
"China's crackdown on any show of support for Tibet – including the flying of flags – is out of keeping with the Olympic spirit and will raise many ongoing concerns as to China's commitment to improve free speech and expression in the run up to the Games.
"That it will have this unfortunate side effect for anyone wanting to fly a Saltire or the English, Welsh or Northern Irish flag may focus people's minds on the need for further dialogue between China and Tibet."
Mind you, what the IOC and Chinese authorities will make of Davies' celebrations if he wins a medal in the 1500 metres or open 10 kilometres swim is anyone's guess.
The fanatical Cardiff City supporter is planning to do an "Ayatollah celebration" on his way to the podium.
That involves having both hands flat pointing towards each other raised above your head and repeatedly moving them up and down in a patting motion.
It dates back to television footage of attendants at the funeral of Ayatollah Khomeini, the former leader of Iran who died in 1989, doing the movement to express their grief at his death
It is now performed by Cardiff supporters at every match they play - they even have a song about it - and has become popular with other Welsh sportsmen when they do well in big events.
Davies said: “It’s standard these days, isn’t it?
"Gareth Thomas did it when he scored tries for Wales and Simon Jones did it when he took a wicket in the Ashes.
“The Welsh are a very patriotic, passionate, sporting nation.
"What with Joe Calzaghe, the rugby team and the Grand Slam and Cardiff City going to Wembley for the FA Cup final, people say it’s the year of the Welsh dragon."
If Davies does the "Ayatollah", Beijing officials may wish they had just allowed him to wave a Welsh flag instead...