US female basketball star Sue Bird and US baseball infielder Eddy Alvarez serve as flag bearers at the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Tokyo on Friday, revealed TODAY on Wednesday.
Bird, 40, has won four gold medals with the women’s team dating back to 2004. Alvarez, 31, has played with the Miami Marlins and won a silver medal in speedskating at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Bird told TODAY that she was touched by the notion that her teammates from Team USA athletes chose her.
“I think it’s best to be honest with having peers to see your career and choose you to be the one leading us in,” Bird said Wednesday.
Alvarez was visibly suffocated by the news that he had been selected.
“It means everything to me. Being able to lead Team USA is an absolute honor, ”he said.
WNBA Hall of Famer Dawn Staley coaches the Tokyo women’s team. She and Bird played together at the 2004 Athens Olympics when Staley was the flag bearer of the opening ceremony.
“It’s always been my favorite moment, without winning, of course,” Bird said. “So being named (flag bearer) now is mindset.”
Traditionally, a person has typically served as a flag bearer in the Olympics, but this year it was changed to two after the International Olympic Committee called on a man and a woman to represent each nation as a symbol of gender parity. The flag bearers are chosen by their teammates.
“With 49 per cent female participation, Tokyo 2020 will be the first gender Olympic Games ever,” the IOC said. “For the first time, there will be at least one female and one male athlete in each of the teams participating in the Games.
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Fencer Janice Lee Romary was the first American woman to serve as a flag bearer in 1968 in Mexico City.
Athletes carrying their country’s flag go back to the 1908 Games in London. Athletics star Ralph Rose was the first American athlete to serve as a flag bearer.
Swimmer Michael Phelps was America’s flag bearer at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. He went on to win six medals, including five golds, bringing his career total to 28 and making him the most decorated athlete in Olympic history.
The athletes will see a distinctive feature of the ceremony. The uniforms are designed by Ralph Lauren and feature a navy blue blazer, a striped T-shirt, a flag-printed scarf, slim fit jeans, a striped belt, a cotton mask and coordinating shoes that have more red, white and blue. Flag bearers will also be the lone athletes on the team wearing white denim jackets.