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500,000 oppose Red Arrows Olympic ban

Gov responds to e-petition

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The government has finally responded to an online petition demanding the Red Arrows be allowed to fly at the 2012 Olympics - an exercise in Democracy 2.0 which attracted a staggering 502,294 signatures despite the fact that a reported ban on the RAF gracing the skies above London was a load of complete cobblers invented by the Sun.

In September last year, the tabloid carried a story reporting that "barmy organisers" had decided the Arrows were "too BRITISH" and "might offend other nations" at the Olympic opening ceremony. The paper wheeled out one flabbergasted flyboy who said: "We have been simply blown away by this decision. For years we have talked about performing a display at the Olympic Games and how magnificent it would be. It never crossed our mind we would be banned from the event."

The barmy organisers moved quickly to quash the rumour, with Red Arrows spokesman Rachel Huxford clarifying on 15 September: "We have had no discussions about the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics whatsoever. We are still planning our 2008 season at this stage and that is a long way off. We understand that no decision has yet been made about the ceremony. We performed when London won its Olympic bid in 2005 after we received a standard request from the Olympic organisers."

On 27 September, the government weighed in with: "This allegation is not true. The Government has not banned the Red Arrows from the London 2012 Olympic Games. The organising committee of London 2012 will decide what to include in the Opening Ceremony and other celebrations - but with almost five years to go, decisions are yet to be made on what these will look like."

This cut little ice with enraged citizens, and by mid-October 165,000 had put their names to the e-petition demanding that Johnny Foreigner be obliged to eat Red Arrows exhaust smoke whether he damn well liked it or not.

Well, you'd imagine that once the truth had been revealed, that would have been an end to the matter. Sadly, the unwashed masses continued to express their discontent right up until the petition's deadline on Wednesday this week, by which time over half a million had inked the e-document.

The government's final response says: "We’re glad to tell you there is absolutely no truth - and never has been - in the idea that the Government has banned the Red Arrows from the London 2012 Olympic Games.

"The Prime Minister was delighted to see the role the Red Arrows played in the celebrations on the Mall after the Beijing Games, and they have always played a significant part in great festivals of celebration in Britain in recent years. Indeed, the Red Arrows played a memorable role when they flew over Trafalgar Square in 2005 to mark London winning the Games.

"Decisions on the nature of the Olympic opening ceremony are a matter for the 2012 organising committee, and with four years to go, they have not made their decisions yet. However, the Prime Minister has made clear he would be delighted to see the Red Arrows perform in the celebrations in 2012."

Downing Street's statement also features Olympics minister Tessa Jowell, who diplomatically declares: "I am delighted that so many people have shown how important the Red Arrows are to them by signing this petition. To their millions of fans, the Red Arrows demonstrate all the best elements of being British of which we are so rightly proud. As we have made clear on many occasions, it is just not true that the Government has in some way banned the Red Arrows from being involved in 2012. Nothing, in fact, could be further from the truth."

She concludes: "While it is up to the 2012 Organising Committee to decide what form the ceremonies in 2012 should take and who should participate, I am very clear in my own mind that the Red Arrows should be part of London’s welcome to the world in four years time. And I know Seb Coe shares my view.” ®

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