Photo: Paul ZimmerNovak Djokovic (SRB)
LONDON, GREAT BRITAIN: Eight tennis players will enjoy one of the proudest moments of their lives on Friday evening when they are flag bearers at the Opening Ceremony of London 2012.
Marcos Baghdatis (Cyprus), Novak Djokovic (Serbia), Max Mirnyi (Belarus), Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland), Maria Sharapova (Russia), Horia Tecau (Romania), Stephanie Vogt (Liechtenstein) and Stanislas Wawrinka (Switzerland) will all lead their teammates out into the Olympic Stadium, carrying the flags of their respective countries.
It is a huge honour to be chosen to represent your national team, and a measure of how respected tennis athletes are in their home countries and amongst their peers in athletics, swimming, cycling, rowing and all of the 26 sports that are part of the Games.
“Just the thought of carrying the flag there, it's mind-blowing really," said Djokovic."It feels incredible, I remember being at the opening ceremony in Beijing and how incredible it was to be part of that opening ceremony, in front of 90,000 to 100,000 people, and God knows how many millions watching around the world.”
“I get goose bumps when I think about the moment I will walk into the stadium carrying the flag and be the first athlete to lead the Romanian delegation,” said Horia Tecau, who found out he would be a flag bearer when he was at Wimbledon. “It will be a very emotional moment.”
Sharapova learnt she would be Russia’s flag bearer when playing at Roland Garros, and perhaps it provided extra motivation as she went on to win her first title there. "It was huge. I had to read the text message five times and read it to other people to make sure I got it correct. I got it after my third round at the French Open saying if I would do something like that. I was very happy to accept." London 2012 is particularly special for the world No. 3 as it will be her first Olympics.
Via Twitter, Wawrinka said: “Thanks for giving me the honour of carrying the Swiss flag. I’m
very proud to do it.” He continues a Swiss tradition of tennis players flying their country colours at recent Games, as doubles partner Roger Federer filled the role in both Beijing and Athens.
This will be the most flag bearers the sport of tennis has had at any Olympics. Two tennis athletes carried the flag in Beijing - Federer and Fernando Gonzalez (Chile) - and four had the honour in Athens: Federer, Claudine Schaul (Luxembourg), Paradorn Srichaphan (Thailand) and Abdo Abdallah (Djibouti). At Sydney 2000, Leander Paes (India) and Marcelo Rios (Chile) were flagbearers, while at Atlanta 1996 it was Marcelo Filippini (Uruguay), Anne Kremer (Luxembourg) and Dally Randriantefy (Madagascar).
The Opening Ceremony begins at 9:00pm local time in the Olympic Stadium in East London.