USA Women’s Basketball star Sue Bird and USA Baseball infielder Eddy Alvarez will serve as flag bearers at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics on Friday, TODAY revealed 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 she was moved by the notion that her fellow Team USA athletes chose her.
“I think that’s the best part, to be honest, to have your peers be the one to kind of see your career and pick you to be the one to lead us in,” Bird said Wednesday.
Alvarez was visibly choked up at the news that he'd been selected.
“It means everything to me. To be able to lead Team USA is an absolute honor,” he said.
WNBA Hall of Famer Dawn Staley is coaching the Tokyo women's squad. She and Bird played together in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, when Staley was the opening ceremony flag bearer.
“That’s always been my favorite moment, outside of winning, obviously,” Bird said. “So, to actually be named (flag bearer) now is mind-blowing.”
Traditionally, one person has typically served as flag bearer in the Olympics, but this year it was changed to two after the International Olympic Committee encouraged one male and one female 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-equal Olympic Games ever,” the IOC says. “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 act as flag bearer in 1968 in Mexico City.
Athletes carrying the flags of their countries dates back to the 1908 Games in London. Track and field star Ralph Rose was the first U.S. athlete to serve as flag bearer.
Swimmer Michael Phelps was America’s flag bearer at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. He would go on to win six medals, including five gold, bringing his career total to 28 and making him the most decorated athlete in Olympic history.
The athletes will have a distinctive look at the ceremony. Designed by Ralph Lauren, the uniforms will feature a navy blazer, a striped T-shirt, a flag-printed scarf, slim-fit jeans, a striped belt, a cotton mask and coordinating shoes that feature more red, white and blue. Flag bearers will also be the lone athletes on the team wearing white denim jackets.