The reason for doubling up is actually so good.
With the 2021 Tokyo Olympics nearly underway, you may be wondering who will represent Team USA during the Olympic opening ceremony on July 23 to mark the start of the event. With everything looking a bit different since the coronavirus pandemic delayed the Summer Olympics in 2020, it’s not surprising there’s yet another change, but luckily, this one is positive. Who is Team USA’s flag bearer at the 2021 Olympic Games? You’ll be surprised to know two athletes are receiving the honor this year.
Traditionally, only one flag bearer makes the trek carrying their country’s flag during the opening and closing ceremonies. However, the Summer Olympic Games will see two USA flag bearers take on the historic role during the opening ceremony on July 23, 2021. Team USA’s flag bearers will be four-time Olympic gold medalist USA Women’s Basketball player Sue Bird and Olympic silver medalist USA Baseball infielder Eddy Alvarez, according to TODAY. (Alvarez won his medal in speedskating during the 2014 Winter Olympics.) Past flag bearers for Team USA include Michael Phelps during the 2016 Summer Olympics and Mia Hamm in 2004.
There have never been two flag bearers for the United States in Olympic Games history, but it’s a welcome change with good reason. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) changed it from one to two flag bearers to encourage one man and woman to represent each nation and symbolize gender equality. While it’s not a requirement, many countries are hopping on board. The IOC’s move comes as Summer Olympics statistics show female participation in the games will be about 49%, making it the first Olympic Games with a nearly equal gender split.
Each team chooses its own flag bearers, and Bird was honored to receive the nomination. “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, who recently won her fourth WNBA Championship with the Seattle Storm, told TODAY. Alvarez, who plays shortstop for the Miami Marlins, called being named a flag bearer an “absolute honor.”
The start of the Olympic Games will see a procession of participating countries in the opening ceremony as they march in with their flags, kicking off the 17-day event, which will run through Aug. 8. While the improved representation is welcome, the Summer Olympics are taking place amidst great scrutiny, thanks positive COVID-19 cases among some athletes and Japan’s low vaccination rate.
Due to the ongoing pandemic, there will be a few changes, but you should see the U.S. Olympic Team entering the opening ceremony before the host country, Japan, in the third-to-last position just before France — a change in the alphabetical order to represent that the two countries are the next two Olympic Games’ hosts. Bird and Alvarez will be easy to spot with their Ralph Lauren-designed outfits featuring a white denim RL COOLING jacket with a built-in temperature regulation system and red, white, and blue details, a T-shirt, a U.S. flag scarf, a face mask, and RL shoes.
To catch the opening ceremony with Team USA’s flag bearers Bird and Alvarez, tune into NBC for one of its three showtimes — 7 a.m. E.T. and 7:30 p.m. ET on July 23 or 12:35 a.m. ET on July 24.