Flag bearer poll devolves into online bile
Ljubljana, 26 January - An online campaign to select the bearer of the Slovenian flag at the PeyongChang Olympics has devolved into vitriol, forcing the Croatian-born biathlete Jakov Fak out of poll in an indication that the simmering border dispute between Slovenia and Croatia is fanning nationalist sentiment.
The Slovenian Olympic Committee launched an online campaign to select the bearer of the Slovenian flag, giving the people the chance to pick between Fak, cross-country runner Vesna Fabjan and ice-hockey player Mitja Robar.
Commentators on the web page of public broadcaster RTV Slovenija soon inundated the site with the near-unanimous sentiment that a Croat simply cannot carry the Slovenian flag.
The comments ranged from "he said once he did not feel the same hearing A Toast and hearing the Croatian anthem," to "A Croat cannot carry a Slovenian flag."
"True sports fans and Slovenians with a positive outlook could not even imagine such a number of destructive comments," the Olympic Committee said Friday as it announced Fak was no longer vying to carry the flag.
Fak got Slovenian citizenship and joined the Slovenian team prior to the 2010/2011 season, having carried the Croatian flag at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, where he won bronze.
"The leadership of the Slovenian Olympic Committee is concerned and outraged at the reactions of the sports public and some Slovenian media.
"We want to explicitly stress that we have never allowed divisions in sport. Sport unites. We will continue to pursue this idea."