Gibraltar Chronicle Logo

Spain fails to stop Gibraltar flag from flying in Valencia IAAF Half Marathon

This Saturday saw a team of seven athletes attend the IAAF half marathon in Valencia surrounded by controversy before the race begun.

After what is understood to have been a political decision by the Spanish authorities the Gibraltar flag was refused to be flown by organisers.

The controversial decision soon went public as the GAAA revealed through twitter early in the afternoon on Saturday how the Gibraltar flag had not been raised at the event due to instructions from Madrid.

In an initial twitter message the GAAA commented: " Gibraltar Flag is not flying at the IAAF @iaaforg Valencia @Valencia2018 Half Marathon due to instructions from Madrid!!"

This led to string of criticism and the subsequent lodging of a complaint by the GAAA to the IAAF over the decision taken by the organisers.

With the race finished later in the evening and after the incident had led to criticism across political and athletics circles the GAAA revealed that a complaint had been lodged to the IAAF in which the flag was subsequently raised.

A spokesman for the GAAA writing on Twitter: "After a complaint made by Gibraltar Athletics to the IAAF. The Gibraltar Flag flies at the Valencia Half Marathon parade. Thanks to Seb Coe & all at IAAF."

Speaking after the race the GAAA President Frank Carreras explained: "Last night, the President of the RFEA informed the GAAA’s team manager that, he had instructions from Madrid, not to fly the Gibraltar flag in the IAAF World Half Marathon in Valencia."

"IAAF President, Lord Sebastian Coe, was briefed on the situation and this morning the GAAA’s lodged an official complaint with the IAAF."

"Our complaint was immediately addressed by the IAAF and I’m happy to say that the Gibraltar Flag did fly in Valencia."

"This is not the first time that we have had problems when competing in international competitions in Spain, but it is the first time that an instruction from Madrid has been overturned. Our thanks to Seb Coe and all at the IAAF for standing for our rights."

The incident comes 19 years after Liam Byrne and the then GAAA chairman, Freddie Chappory, were also refused to fly the Gibraltar flag at the International Athletics Championships held in Seville.

At the time local athletes gathered support from local sports associations and other international bodies in protest at Spain's actions. Among those supporting were Lord Coe who at the time was part of the British Athletics body.

Lord Coe only this year visited Gibraltar in his capacity as President of the IAAF to launch the School of Sport in Gibraltar, once again demonstrating his support for Gibraltar.

Thirty-one years ago, also, the Gibraltar flag was refused from being flown during the opening ceremony at the 1987 European indoor championships held at the Palacio de Deportes in Madrid. This was one of the first times such an incident occurred.

At the time, after a complaint was lodged to the IAAF by the GAAA, it was decided with LOC that no flags would be paraded in this way appeasing Madrid. Now GAAA executive member Avelino Baldachino, at the time an athlete for the GAAA, participated in the 800m.

The team of seven at the Valencia half marathon includes Kim Baglietto, Emma Montiel, Allison Edwards, Bethan Perera, Arnold Rogers, Charles Savignon and Maurice Turnock. They were accompanied by senior GAAA committee members.

Reacting to the latest incident the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo joined the criticisms aired on social media putting up a post on Twitter in which he stated "Mixing sport & politics like this is how the Spanish Government ensures #Gibraltar never forgets how badly we have been treated historically by them & how future generations of #Gibraltarians will ensure we remain 100% #British. We will have no such issue in Australia @GC2018"

When the GAAA revealed that the flag had been raised due to a formal complaint lodged over the decision the Chief Minister himself responded via Twitter, " Delighted to see this result delivered for @GAAA5 and for our athletes, who did not deserve that their flag should not fly in a competition in which they are properly enrolled @iaaforg #FairnessPrevails."

The incident had much of the same characteristics seen in 1999 when local athletes and sports people led by Paul Ignacio initiated a campaign which saw the IAAF backing them at the time.

Mr Ignacio, speaking from abroad commented on the latest incident by stating: "20 years later Spain repeats the same stunt. Politics in Spain interferes with Sports. Sports should have no Frontiers. Spain needs to be reminded again that her behaviour will not be tolerated. All sporting associations should show solidarity and call on the Spanish Athletics federation and call for our Flag to be rightly flown. Asking the other countries federations to ask their flags not to be raised is not a viable option. Our Flag must be flown like all others."

"We expect the IAAF to inform and remind the Spanish Federation of code of conduct and not tarnish the sport with Politics."

The incident by coincidence comes on the same week that two Gibraltarian athletes, one of which is Liam Byrnes, who was at the centre of the 1999 flag flying controversy, run in the Masters European Athletics Championships being held in Madrid. Both athletes, Liam Byrnes and Sharron Celecia, reached the semi finals having beaten Spanish counterparts in their respective heats to reach the semi finals.

Sharron coming second in her heat and notching the 19th best time in the list going through to the semi finals in the 200m. Whilst Liam reached the 400m semi finals.

The Gibraltar team at Valencia

Most Read

Opinion & Analysis

Did Russia threaten to attack Gibraltar? No, but…

Opinion & Analysis

Stark reality after another Brexit twist

Download The App On The iOS Store