Followers of cycling will note that the finish of a race often sees many flags being waved. My favourite is the “Dirk Hoffman Motorhomes” board, a common sight in Belgian classics. It’s inevitable, the finish line is filmed in detail and the images are repeated on news broadcasts. In other words, it’s valuable airtime.
I’ve written before about the Lion of Flanders flags and how these are political symbols. Well the same is true in Italy too. Anyone watching the arrival of the Tour of Lombardy can’t have missed the giant Padania flags waving over the finish line.
Padania was long the name for the Po valley, Padus being the Latin name for Italy’s longest river. But in more recent years the term Padania has been used by politicians wanting to break up Italy and they lobby for the north of the country to split from the south. So these flags are the symbol of the political grouping the Lega Nord, or Northern League.
I won’t cover the detail too much but as background Italy and Italians are often fiercely proud of their regions. You aren’t just Italian, you are often Tuscan or Calabrian too. Indeed the country is made up of various kingdoms that were united in the 19th century, the completion of this occurred after the US civil war. Today some Italian politicians try to exploit these currents as well as other differences, notable the wealth gap between the north and south. The politics involved here is of a very populist form and its leader has twice received a suspended custodian sentence. It’s not moderate to say the least.
Anyway, when you see the flags waving at the finish it’s because politics is trying to hijack the moment.
This is part of a series on European life called “out of competition” where I try to show a few things that go beyond bike racing. For more items see the following:
Out of Competition
Part I: another other side to Belgium
Part II: Is Belgium splitting apart?
Part III: The Bike as a Way Out
Part IV: The Walloon Cockerel
Part V: Belgian Government Collapses
Part VI: Young, Gifted and Credit Blacklisted
Part VII: Belgian elections
Part VIII: The summer of Spain
Part IX: Preparing for the break-up of Belgium
Part X: Those flags you see in Italian races