THE Union flag was proudly raised aloft into gold medal position in Hampshire yesterday.

And servicemen and women from the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force hope they will get the chance to repeat that feat when the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games get under way later this month.

Personnel from all three services descended on Royal Navy base HMS Collingwood in Fareham to train in the art of ceremonial flag raising.

A total of 176 members of our armed forces will have the honour of being official flag raisers at more than 800 victory ceremonies during London 2012, which will be watched by billions across the globe.

They were selected through a Ministry of Defence nomination process because of their sporting connections, links with the community or their performance on operations.

Yesterday they were put through their paces by Lieutenant Commander Jon Glass.

He said: “Flags are a major part of Naval tradition.

It is an honour to be responsible for the training of the military flag raisers for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“The professionalism of our armed forces will be showcased in front of an international audience who will witness both the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

One of the servicemen selected to be an official flag raiser at the Games, Warrant Officer John Hiscock, 44, from the Royal Marines, said: “It’s about looking good, it’s about representing the country and honouring the medal winners themselves.

“They have earned gold, silver and bronze medals, so we have to make sure we put the flags up correctly and conduct the ceremony accordingly.

“I’m massively looking forward to it. You say it over and over again but it is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

I’ll be based at the Aquatics Centre for the diving and swimming, which are popular sports that I’ve looked at with interest.”

Squadron Leader Tal Lambert, from the Royal Air Force, added: “It’s an immensely proud occasion for myself and the Royal Air Force to be involved.

“There’s a real sense of pride at being involved because this is a once-in-a-generation event.”