Will Malaga become WMA’s ‘Nazi Olympics’? Gibraltar M40 runner protests flag ban

Liam Byrne pulled a Mexico City at Malaga, risking being kicked out of the meet for showing Gibraltar flag.Liam Byrne pulled a Mexico City at Malaga, risking being kicked out of the meet for showing Gibraltar flag banned by Spain.

Liam Byrne took fourth in Heat 5 of the M40 800 prelims Sunday at Malaga, but he quickly became the focus of world media when he displayed his flag after the race. The flag of Gibraltar. In the results, he’s listed as representing “WMA.” Media reports say he was forced to run as a “neutral” athlete.

Liam apparently gets a tongue-lashing from meet officials after showing his national flag.

His time of 2:03.49 (see results here) means he’ll likely have a hard time making the final. (Top qualifier was 1:58.08 by Kenya’s Isaac Kiberenge.) But he’s apparently the only Gibraltar athlete (of five originally entered) still competing in Malaga.

Would love to see him show up for Monday’s semifinals wearing a Gibraltar kit — and watching WMA officials go crazytown trying to deal with a “situation.” (He’s currently set for Lane 1 of Heat 1 in the semifinal at 7:15 p.m. Spain time.)

World Masters Athletics should assert whatever authority it has and veto the LOC. If not, Malaga will become known as WMA’s “Nazi Olympics.”

Here’s what the Express wrote in the UK:

‘We will NOT be bullied!’ Gibraltar athlete DEFIES petty Spain ban on displaying own flag

AN ATHLETE from Gibraltar who proudly flew the British territory’s flag at a competition in Spain has been threatened with disqualification after the Spanish government demanded competitors from the Rock compete under “neutral” colours.

Liam wears usual national uniform in file photo.

Liam wears usual national uniform in a file photo.

Spanish authorities had previously told event organisers athletes from Gibraltar were banned from displaying the flag because Madrid does not recognise the British territory as a separate country.

Following the decision, four out of the five-strong team from Gibraltar decided to boycott the competition despite months of training and preparation.

But Mr Byrne vowed to compete regardless, saying he would not be “bullied into making decisions that go against your own principles”.

His fourth-place finish today means he has qualified for the semi-final tomorrow.

But WMA officials are reportedly considering disqualifying Mr Byrne for defying the ban.

The Spanish Athletics Federation had previously threatened to shut down the entire event down if athletes from the Rock displayed the Gibraltarian flag.

Here’s what Gibraltar news site reported:

A local athlete who was banned from representing Gibraltar in the World Master Athletics championships in Malaga this weekend, staged a protest by unfurling a Gibraltar flag at the end of his race, having run in “neutral” colours till that point.

Liam Byrne was the only one of five athletes banned from representing Gibraltar who decided to compete instead of boycott, after receiving a letter from the WMA claiming the instruction came from the Spanish government. Mr Byrne’s protest means he may be disqualified, despite having come fourth in the race and qualifying for Monday’s semifinal.

Liam ran for "WMA" in his M40 800 heat, results show.

Liam ran for “WMA” in his M40 800 heat, results show. Photos via Fotografiks Design

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About the Author

Ken Stone
Ken has followed track as an athlete, writer and webmaster since the late 1960s, and saw most sessions of track and field at the 1984 Los Angeles and 1996 Atlanta Olympics. He also attended the 1988, 1992, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 Trials. He worked for 10 newspapers and now reports for Times of San Diego. Write him at TrackCEO@aol.com or kens@timesofandiego.com. Story tips always welcome!

5 Comments on "Will Malaga become WMA’s ‘Nazi Olympics’? Gibraltar M40 runner protests flag ban"

  1. Thank you for reporting on this issue. IMO this is the fault of WMA for refusing to stand up for what is right and giving in to Spain’s political demands. When Spain threatened to cancel the whole Championships the WMA should have had the guts to call Spain’s bluff as this would never have happened. Stan Perkins should be ashamed of himself for not standing up for the rights of his fellow athletes and i am pleased to see that he is no longer the President on WMA.

  2. Never mind the pathological need for SJW types to reduce complicated issues into oppressed vs. oppressor scenarios, but unless Tanks are rolling into Gibralter and Mr. Byrne is being relocated to a concentration camp I’m thinking the whole Nazi bit is a little bit much.

    • Christopher Wall | September 13, 2018 at 2:29 pm | Reply

      Mr X, I fear you may be missing the point of the “Nazi Olympics” headline. The writer is referring to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, not to anything the Nazis did later. By allowing Nazi Germany to host the 1936 Games, the IOC infamously gave Hitler a worldwide platform for his odious propaganda. Will the WMA now allow every host nation to decide which foreign teams may be represented?

  3. Nah Bro, not “missing the point”. Should I have gone with a Riefenstahl reference or how about Falklands? How about some snide remark about the result of one fading former empire building superpower attacking another. My comment stands, “Nazi Olympics” is way over the top hyperbole and a poor analogy….But just in case, when I get to the bar tonight I’ll ask everyone if they heard about that heroic guy wearing his Gibralter kit who blocked the tank in Tiannaman,….oh wait, I mean, was allowed to finish the race and then got TALKED to by officials.

  4. William Newsham | September 19, 2018 at 7:00 am | Reply

    I guess we won’t be seeing any more WMA events in Spain. That should be the penalty for their shortsightedness.

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