American athletes keeping flags under wraps

Jay Busbee
February 11, 2014
US Olympians Visit USA House
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 06: A general view of the USA House ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Olympic Park on February 6, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for USOC)

Sochi hasn't seen any security incidents yet, but even so, American athletes are remaining as inconspicuous as possible.

The USA House and other athletes' locales are staying decidedly low key, flags at a minimum on both buildings and clothing. It's a sharp contrast to many other Olympics, where the American flag was omnipresent.

But this is Russia, and the American flag can be a symbolic target. “We have let them know some people don’t consider Americans their favorites,” Scott Blackmun, U.S. Olympic Committee CEO, said in a press briefing last week. “If you wear non-American attire, it would attract less attention.”

Even though Sochi is at the heart of a security circle encompassing thousands of square miles, American athletes and officials are being cautious. Recent terrorist activity, including a near-hijacking of a plane on the night of the Opening Ceremony, has only enhanced concerns.

[Related: Sochi Games security off to a good start]

Still, American athletes are trying to turn the negative to a positive. “You do see a lot of the countries putting their flags up in the village,” alpine skier Stacey Cook told Bloomberg. “Our presence, we want to make it on the race hill, not in the village.”

Other athletes have noticed the relative lack of American pomp and circumstance. “The U.S guys haven’t put up any of their flags at the moment, and I don’t know if they going to the duration of the games,” said Seamus O'Connor, an American-born snowboarder competing under Ireland's flag. “Someone said something about them worrying about attention.”

The flags aren't the important part of the Olympics. Bringing home the best possible memories, and perhaps a medal or two, trumps a bit of jingoism on-site.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter.