Because it is voted on by fellow Olympians, few sports honors are more meaningful that the one given Sue Bird in Tokyo Wednesday — flag-bearer for the U.S. delegation in the Opening Ceremony of the Summer Olympics.
The Seattle Storm star shares the honor with two-sport Olympic athlete Eddy Alvarez, a member of the U.S. baseball team who won a silver medal with the four-man short-track speedskating team in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.
The U.S. delegation for the first time authorized that a male and female athlete share the honor. They will lead a delegation of more than 230 athletes into Olympic Stadium, which will be on a delayed telecast on NBC from 4:30 to 9 p.m. Friday, and shown live 12 hours earlier on the network’s Peacock stream.
Bird, 40, has played her entire 20-year WNBA career in Seattle, where she has won four league titles. She is seeking her fifth Olympic medal. She won her first in 2004 in Athens, where the flag was carried by fellow basketball star Dawn Staley, now here Olympics coach.
“It’s an incredible honor to be selected the flag bearer for Team USA,” Bird said in a statement. “I know what that means because I got to witness Dawn Staley go through it when she was selected in 2004. It’s an honor that is bigger than the moment in that you’ve been selected by your fellow Team USA athletes to represent the entire delegation, and it will last forever.”
Alvarez, a part of the Miami Marlins farm system, is the first baseball player to bear the U.S. flag The sport returned to the Games at the request of Japan after being absent from the previous two Olympics.