Is the flag of former East Germany flying at the Beijing Olympics? Not so fast

People online have been sharing a photo with an East German flag, claiming it was flying at the Beijing Olympics. In fact, the photo comes from 2019.
People online have been sharing a photo with an East German flag, claiming it was flying at the Beijing Olympics. In fact, the photo comes from 2019. © Observers

Social media posts say that a black, red and gold flag, emblazoned with a hammer, compass and wreath of corn – the flag of the former communist East Germany - was seen at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in China, which is ruled by the Communist Party. But the photo, taken in 2019 in Canada as part of a historical commemoration, has nothing to do with the games.


If you only have a minute

  • The flag of the communist, former East German republic is not flying at the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022, despite posts on social networks saying otherwise.
  • The photo was taken in 2019 at a sporting event in Canmore, Canada, where there is an installation commemorating the 1988 Calgary Olympics, with flags of the countries that competed in those games. 
  • Want to confirm this yourself? Check out the original photo posted in 2019 and the location of the flags on Google Streetview.

Finding the source of the image

The German Democratic Republic (GDR) was established in the Soviet occupation zone of Germany after the end of World War II. The eastern zone operated under strict communist principles before Germany was reunified in 1990.

This explains why many people online were taken aback to see a photo of the GDR’s flag, supposedly flying alongside other countries’ flags, at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. The photo has been shared numerous times since February 8, 2022, with captions in German, English and other languages claiming it was taken in China.

With a reverse image search (click here to find out how), you can find the original source of this photo. It first showed up on Facebook on February 7, 2019, accompanied by a caption in German. Therefore, it was certainly not taken at this year’s Olympic Games.

Why is there an East German flag?

The caption refers to the Biathlon World Cup, which was held in Canmore, a town in Alberta, Canada, on February 7-10, 2019. The World Cup is a top-level championship competition for the biathlon, a race where contestants cross-country ski between rifle-shooting rounds. 

In Canmore, the event was held at the Canmore Nordic Centre, which has extensive skiing trails. A row of flags outside the centre commemorates the 1988 Olympic Games, which were held in Calgary, Canada. The biathlon race for those games was held in Canmore and all the countries that competed in 1988 are represented. The only flag missing? That of the Soviet Union, because “The wind tore it down,” a spokeswoman for the World Cup said.

The installation of flags is still present at the Nordic Centre, as can be seen on Google Streetview. The mountains visible behind the flags on Google also match up with those seen in the photo.