Why Is It Called The Antwerp Ceremony? The Rio Olympics Closing Ceremony Is Full Of Tradition

IOC President Jacques Rogge (C) applauds after passing the Olympic flag to Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes (R) during the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 12, 2012 in London. Rio de Janeiro will host the 2016 Olympic Games. AFP PHOTO / Odd Andersen (Photo credit should read ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/GettyImages)
Source: ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images

The curtain is expected to come down on the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero on Sunday with one final extravagant display of panache. If Rio's opening ceremony was any indication, there's likely to be plenty of color, energy, and flair throughout the official wrap up to the 2016 Games. However, don't expect Olympic officials to cast aside traditions which have come to define the Games' closing ceremony for nearly a century. Rio's mayor will pass the Olympic flag on to the next host city in what is known as the Antwerp Ceremony, ending this year's Games with a well known Olympic tradition. But why is it called the Antwerp Ceremony

Rio de Janerio Mayor Eduardo Paes will pass the official Olympic flag on to Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike at Maracanã Stadium as part of Rio's closing ceremony. It's a defining moment of any Olympic closing ceremony, having been an integral part of the event for 96 years. We saw it during the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Games and when the 2008 Beijing Games came to an end too. But while most of us know it as simply "the exchange of flags," this segment of the Games' closing celebration actually has an official name. 

The Antwerp Ceremony is the passing of the Olympic flag from the mayor of the current host city back to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and then on to the mayor of the Games' next host city, who then waves it a total of eight times. The exchange is meant to symbolize (quite literally, in fact) the handoff of the Olympic hosting honors and the conclusion of one Games and the beginning of another. 

Although the name of the tradition may seem obscure at first, it's not hard to figure out where it came from once you know more about the history of the flag exchanging hands. The first time an Olympic Games ended with an official from the current host city passing what had been deemed the event's official flag to an Olympic official, who then passed it on to an official from the next host city just before the IOC president declared that year's Games officially over was in 1920 during the Antwerp Games. Since then the flag exchange has been referred to as the Antwerp Ceremony in a nod to the city where it first began. 

The Olympic Games are, unsurprisingly, steeped in tradition and the closing ceremony is no exception. As the curtain falls on Rio's Games we'll witness one final Olympic tradition as Paes hands the official flag of the Games on to Koike, getting spectators excited for the 2020 Games. 

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