Team USA’s women’s basketball star Sue Bird and baseball player Eddy Alvarez will be America’s flag bearers at the opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics on Friday.
This will mark the first Olympic Games where both male and female athletes will lead their national teams. In previous Games, one person has been a flag bearer, but the intention of the International Olympic Committee to increase gender equality has led to change. It is also the first time that each nation will send at least one woman and one man.
The contingent of athletes from each nation pick the flag bearers, and Bird and Alvarez have accumulated strong credentials.
Bird, 31, is a basketball legend, four-time gold medalist for the U.S. team and a member of teams dating back to 2004.
Alvarez, 31, won a silver medal in the 5,000m relay in speed skating at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. He played for the Miami Marlins and will be the 135th athlete to compete in the Summer Olympics and winter.
Many of America’s best-known Olympic athletes have served as standard bearers. Swimmer Katie Ledecky carried the flag to open the 2016 Olympics, while NBA star Kevin Durant did so to close the Games. Simone Biles, Michael Phelps, Mia Hamm, Dawn Staley, Rulon Gardner and many more have had the honor of carrying the flag in previous Olympics.
The opening ceremony will take place at approximately 8 p.m. Tokyo time, or 7 a.m. Eastern time in the United States. It will air live on NBC, then replay in prime time in the US approximately 12 hours later.
Traditionally one of the biggest sporting shows in the world, this year’s opening ceremony will look very different due to COVID-19 restrictions. No fans will be present and many athletes choose not to walk due to the possibility of infection.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee and contact him at [email protected]
More Olympics coverage from Yahoo Sports: