TEHRAN — An Iranian crowd burst into cheers Tuesday when U.S. wrestlers carried the Stars and Stripes into an international meet--marking what is believed to be the first time in 18 years that the American flag was displayed with honor rather than hatred in this capital.
The U.S. flag, burned and trampled again and again here since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, received more applause than any of the other 16 national banners, save that of the host nation.
Wrestlers on the five-member U.S. team carrying the flag waved back enthusiastically.
"I never know what to expect wherever I go, but more so here because other countries don't call us 'Great Satan,' " said wrestler Melvin Douglas, a 1993 world champion. "But . . . I'm not a Satan. I'm a sportsman."
The cheers, said coach Joe Seay, "felt very good."
"But what was very special is that they had our flag. We had brought our own flag, but we had no need for it, because they had one already for us," Seay said. "That showed caring."