TOKYO – Veteran basketball player Sue Bird and baseball player Eddy Alvarez will be the flagship of the US delegation at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee announced on Wednesday.
This will be the first time Team USA will have two flag bearers, following a recent policy change by the International Olympic Committee.
The organization revised its rules in March 2020 to allow each nation to have two flag bearers – a woman and a man – to promote gender equality.
The opening ceremony will begin Friday at 8 p.m. local time in Japan and at 7 a.m. on the East Coast. It will air live on NBC on Friday morning.
Bird, 40, is a quadruple Olympic gold medalist who will compete in her fifth Games in Tokyo, where the US women’s team is heavily favored to win gold again. And Alvarez has the distinction of competing in both the Winter and Summer Games; He won a silver medal in speed skating at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.
“I didn’t think this would be an opportunity for me,” said Alvarez, who is Cuban-American and raised in the Miami area. “It’s a great great opportunity for me and my culture to be able to represent my past and my people.”
Alvarez, who made his major league debut in 2020 and is part of the Miami Marlins system, blurted out on a conference call with reporters on Saturday that he was seen as a potential flag bearer.
The flag bearers are chosen by a vote of the other athletes.
Bird, meanwhile, is a five-time Olympian and one of the USA’s most recognizable stars. A four-time WNBA champion, she made her debut on the U.S. basketball team in 2000.
“I know it’s not about me,” she said in a statement. “These are all of the players who came before me and set the tone for what the USA Basketball women’s program is now, as well as the players I have been fortunate enough to play with. representing all. “
Swimmer Michael Phelps was the American flag bearer at the previous Summer Olympics in Rio in 2016. He was predeceased by fencer Mariel Zagunis in 2012, distance runner Lopez Lomong in 2008 and basketball player Dawn Staley in 2004. (Staley is now the coach of the US women’s basketball team.)
In its flag bearer announcement, Team USA also said it expects more than 230 athletes to participate in the traditional “Parade of Nations” at the Opening Ceremony – which would represent around 37% of its delegation of athletes.
Tokyo 2020 organizers have answered several questions over the past week about whether the number of athletes would be limited due to COVID-19. They declined to say how many athletes will be allowed to parade, while declining to answer other questions about the ceremony, such as how many dignitaries and public figures will be allowed to attend.
As host of an upcoming edition of the Summer Games – in 2028 in Los Angeles – the American delegation will be among the last to set foot on the Olympic stadium in Tokyo on Friday, alongside France, which will host the Olympic Games. 2024 in Paris.