The combination of morning finals and a fortuitous schedule could see Cate Campbell become the first Australian swimmer to carry the flag at an Olympic opening ceremony, with freestyle star and basketball champion Patrick Mills among the favorites to receive honors in Tokyo.
In what will be a break with Olympic tradition – and what is not in these delayed Games – each nation will have a male and female flag bearer, with the announcement to be made live on Seven from 18 Wednesday night hours. It would normally take place at a special reception in the Athletes’ Village a few days before the ceremony.
One thing that has not changed is the quality of the athletes who are vying for this honor. There are 472 to choose from, many of which have strived for years of excellence in sports that only soak up the sun when the Olympic calendar shines a spotlight on them.
Equestrian Andrew Hoy will take part in a breathtaking eighth Olympics, while tennis star Sam Stosur will return for Games number five. The two are well in contention, but Campbell and Mills remain the favorites as they both prepare for their fourth Olympics.
Swimming has long been Australia’s best Olympic sport, but it has always been a difficult task for flag bearers, given the long waits at the stadium and the short time to compete, often early the next morning.
Only two Australian swimmers carried the flag for the Opening Ceremony; Andrew ‘Boy’ Charlton in 1932 and Max Metzker in Moscow in 1980. But Campbell could be on the verge of making history.
Like Beijing in 2008, Tokyo will have morning finals and nightly playoffs in the pool to satisfy its American benefactor and NBC broadcast partner. This plays into Campbell’s game as she won’t be forced to race on the first day of competition, which includes a series of nightly heats.
She will be able to get into the water and warm up for the finals on day two, where she will join the team for the 4x100m freestyle relay, an event Australia are favorites to win a third consecutive Olympic gold medal. .
It’s a logistical schedule, Alex Baumann, Managing Director of Swimming Australia, who carried the Canadian flag in 1984, thinks it’s possible if there is some flexibility at the ceremony, especially given the exhausting heat in Tokyo and the constant wearing of masks.