TOKYO — Several Olympic nations are expected to demonstrate their support for gender equality and racial justice on Friday night, with their own selection of athletes to carry flags at the opening ceremony.
The International Olympic Committee changed its rules and asked each nation to select two flag bearers in an effort to increase gender equality at the Tokyo Games.
Gold medalist Mohammed Sabi will be the first Muslim to wave the British flag at the Games along with sailor Hannah Mills.
“It is such an honor to be invited to be the flag bearer for Team GB,” said Sabi. “It’s an iconic moment within the Olympic movement – people remember those images.”
Australians Kate Campbell and Patty Mills are both competing in their fourth Olympics. Mills, a basketball player who plays for the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA, will be the first Indigenous Australian chosen to carry the flag for the opening ceremony.
“It’s identity, being able to show who you are to the world,” Mills said. “It’s one of those things that makes you feel proud of who you are. We’ve certainly come a long way for Australian sport and it’s special.”
Team USA will be represented by 40-year-old basketball player Sue Bird and Cuban-American baseball player Eddie Alvarez. Alvarez, who won a silver medal for speedskating at the 2014 Winter Olympics, has expressed support for those in Cuba who have joined the recent protests over the country’s economic crisis.
“We feel for the Cuban people right now. We are very proud of them because they are going to protest there with stones, thorns and brooms,” he said.
For the Netherlands, it will be 36-year-old Dutch sprinter and black athlete Churandi Martina from Curaçao and 16-year-old skateboarder Keit Oldenbuing. He is the oldest and youngest member of the Dutch Olympic team.
In the case of Belgium, the two would also represent the country’s linguistic division – heptathlete Nafi Thiam, a French speaker, and hockey player Felix Denyer, a Dutch speaker.
“what an honor!” Posted black sprinter Mujinga Kambundji on Instagram with an emoji of the Swiss flag after being selected with Max Henger.
“When I started athletics as a kid, going to the Olympics never felt real. Today, I’m preparing for my third Olympic Games, and that honor makes the experience even more special.”