Tokyo Olympics: Why does Fiji have a Union Jack on its flag?

Tokyo Olympics: Why does Fiji have a Union Jack on its flag?
Tokyo Olympics: Why does Fiji have a Union Jack on its flag?
Flag of the Republic of Fiji (Picture: Getty Images)

It’s a question that gets asked every Olympic games. Why do some countries, Fiji for one, have the Union Jack on their national flag?

That’s because Fiji is one of four sovereign states, apart from the United Kingdom itself, to have the Jack on its flag.

The others are Australia, New Zealand and Tuvalu, the Polynesian island nation so beloved of Pointless fans.

The Union Jack first appeared on Fiji’s flag in 1874 when it became a British Crown Colony. It has remained there ever since, even after Fiji became independent in 1970.

A competition was launched in 2015 to redesign the flag, which Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said was ‘anchored’ to the country’s colonial past.

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama smiles after signing a visitors book at Parliament House in Canberra on September 16, 2019. - Bainimarama arrived in Australia for five days of meetings with members of the Fijian community in Sydney and Canberra, as well as a bilateral meeting with Morrison where they are expected to talk trade and investment. (Photo by MICK TSIKAS / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read MICK TSIKAS/AFP via Getty Images)
Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama in 2019 (Picture: AFP)

A new design was to have been unveiled on 10 October that year on the 45th anniversary of the country’s independence.

Ultimately, though, the plans were ditched over concerns it would cost too much to change it.

‘While I remain convinced personally that we need to replace some of the flag’s colonial symbols with a genuinely indigenous expression of our present and our future, it has been apparent… that the flag should not be changed for the foreseeable future,’ Mr Bainimarama said in August 2016.

Fiji’s PM, you may recall, was the first world leader to congratulate Joe Biden on becoming the new US president – despite the fact the election had yet to be called in his favour.

Fiji's victorious Rugby Sevens team
Fiji’s victorious Rugby Sevens team (Picture: Getty Images)

Fiji’s current flag features the Union Jack and a coat of arms topped by a lion holding a cacao pod. Also included are symbols for sugarcane, coconuts, bananas and the Fiji dove surrounding the arms of a red cross of St George.

Swimmer Taichi Vakasama and rugby sevens team captain Rusila Nagasau were Fiji’s joint flag bearers at the Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony.

The flag was raised again when Fiji beat New Zealand to win gold in the rugby sevens for the second consecutive Olympics.

Tuvalu, by the way, dropped the Union Jack from its flag in January 1996 only to reinstate it 15 months later.


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Author: Neil Smith