Did an Olympic Athlete Steal the Olympic Flag and Return It Eighty Years Later?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about the Olympics and Olympians and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the Olympic urban legends featured so far.

OLYMPIC URBAN LEGEND: An Olympian who stole the Olympic flag in 1920 returned the flag…eighty years later!!!

Haig Prieste (who went by the name “Hal”) was a member of the 1920 U.S. Olympic platform diving team. He won a bronze medal at the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium.

However, a bronze medal was not the only thing that Prieste took away from those Olympic Games.

On a dare from a teammate, Prieste climbed a flag pole and stole the official Olympic flag, the first official Olympic flag since the Modern Olympics had begun. That flag was replaced and was then used in every Olympics until 1988, when it was retired and a new official flag was made (and has been used since).

Seventy-seven years later, Prieste was at a sports banquet for the U.S. Olympic team and a reporter asked about the missing flag. Prieste then shocked the reporter by noting that he had had it in a suitcase since 1920!!!

Read on to see what happened next!

In 2000, at the Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, the 103-year-old Prieste returned the flag that he had stole EIGHTY YEARS earlier to the head of International Olympic Committee, Juan Antonio Samaranch.

Better late than never, huh?

Prieste passed away the next year.

The legend is…

STATUS: True

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is [email protected]

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