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Commonwealth Games 2002

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Tuesday, 19 February, 2002, 18:14 GMT
Flag 'ban' upsets SNP
Alain Baxter
Baxter has dyed his hair again
The Scottish National Party has reacted angrily to reports of a ban on competitors sporting the Saltire at the Winter Olympics.

Team GB bosses have said all athletes must support Britain as a whole, rather than differentiate between the different countries in the British Isles.

Britain's top skier Alain Baxter had his hair dyed blue and white in the shape of Scotland's national flag, while his cousin, snowboarder Lesley McKenna, was told to remove a flag from her clothing before competing in the half-pipe.

SNP leader John Swinney plans to write to the British Olympic Association and the International Olympic Committee, demanding that they reverse the ban.

Lesley McKenna
Lesley McKenna: Told to remove flag
Mr Swinney said: "This is an outrageous way for proud and patriotic Scots athletes to be treated by British Olympic bosses.

"It is bad enough that there is no Scottish national team at the Winter Olympics, but suppressing the Saltire simply adds insult to injury."

But the Scottish Tories' sports spokesman, Brian Monteith, accused Mr Swinney of "scraping the barrel" over what had been a "bit of fun".

He said British sportsmen and women should show unity.

"Members of the team are selected to represent all of the United Kingdom," said Mr Monteith.

The British Olympic Association is reported to be concerned that wearing the Saltire could be construed as a political statement.

'Proud to be Scottish'

Baxter, 28, has withdrawn from Thursday's giant slalom event because of an injury but plans to compete in Saturday's slalom.

"I've already had the cross dyed so it doesn't resemble a Scottish flag anymore," he said.

"It wasn't a political statement. I'm just proud to be Scottish."

BBC Sport Online correspondent at the games, Anna Thompson, said: "He was just having a laugh.

"He had his hair dyed before he came out to the games and he just wanted to have a bit of fun to show that he is proud to be Scottish but in no way was he trying to make a political statement."

Baxter comes from Aviemore and is nicknamed The Highlander.

BBC Sport Online's Anna Thompson
"Alain certainly wasn't making a political statement"
See also:

18 Jan 02 | Other Sports
Baxters the best of British
19 Feb 02 | Alpine Skiing
Baxter awaits slalom mission
14 Jan 02 | Other Sports
McKenna secures snowboard spot
20 Oct 01 | Other Sports
The Highlander returns
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