Recently we dug out our old poster showing the flags of the world. It’s titled “World of Flags”. I bought it four years ago, ostensibly for the children (who were aged 7 and 9 at the time), but really for me, having realized that I could only recognize, with confidence, 20 or 30 of them. It formed part of my preparation for the 2014 Football World Cup, helping me to recognize the flags of the 32 nations taking part. The poster came from Ryman’s and features 153 countries. It also lists their capital cities, which is handy.
We dug out this laminated 21” by 29” sheet so that my daughter could use it for a school competition, designing a poster for the Summer Fair. The theme is this summer’s World Cup. I suggested that she draw some shady-looking guys in suits pocketing huge piles of cash. She ignored that and, instead, carefully drew the flags of all 32 countries, arranged neatly on an A3 sheet of paper. She wrote the appropriate wording, included a drawing of the World Cup trophy and was all set to hand it in last week. The deadline was extended to this week, so she had more time to work on it if she chose, but unfortunately the guidelines were also changed. The artwork has to be in portrait orientation, and hers was landscape.
Before her design was complete she was putting so much work into drawing all 32 flags (South Korea anyone?) that I told her she could cut the designs out of the original poster if she wanted and stick them onto her artwork. We could always buy another one. In fact, I bought two more, with a different design, from the Pound Shop. (The total cost was, unsurprisingly, £2). There are even more countries represented, 193 in all, but the capital cities are not listed. Instead, below each country’s name is the region of the world where it is located, so I can confirm that the Maldives are in Asia and the Marshall Islands are part of Australasia.
There are also flags for places like Andorra (same colours as Romania, but with a crest in that middle stripe of yellow), Monaco and Vatican City. None of these countries was on the original poster (and nor were the Maldives or the Marshall Islands). Monaco has a band of red on top of a band of white, very like Indonesia, or like Poland upside down. I had spotted this less than an hour before seeing a question on TV about it. I had recorded last Friday’s “Eggheads” and was watching it on Saturday. Two contestants were playing four of the eggheads in the final round and there was a multiple-choice question about the colours on Monaco’s flag. They guessed correctly, and went on to win £22,000. An hour earlier I might have guessed the right answer too but I was able to shout “Red and white!” at the TV knowing that it was correct.
The new poster also shows the post-2011 Libyan flag. Between 1977 and 2011 it was just a band of green, and this was the basis of a classic, frequently-used quiz question: Which country’s flag is the only one that consists of just one colour? The answer used to be Libya but the question is no longer valid. Our original poster displayed that simple band of green for Libya but the Pound Shop version shows the new design. It has three bands (red, black and green) with a white crescent and a white star on that central band of black.
“Quiz questions that are no longer valid” is a theme that I plan to return to sometime soon. In the meantime there are 40 unfamiliar-looking flags for me to study, but none of them will be on display at this year’s Football World Cup.