Team USA women's basketball star Sue Bird and two-sport baseball player Eddy Alvarez will serve as America's flag bearers at the Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony on Friday.
This will mark the first Olympics where both female and male athletes will lead their national teams. In past Games, one individual has served as flag bearer, but the International Olympic Committee's push to increase gender equality led to the change. This also marks the first time that every nation will be sending at least one female and one male athlete.
Each nation's athlete contingent chooses the flag bearers, and both Bird and Alvarez have amassed sterling credentials.
Bird, 40, is a basketball legend, a four-time gold medal winner for Team USA and a member of teams dating all the way back to 2004.
Alvarez, 31, won a silver medal in speed skating's 5000m relay at the 2014 Winter Olympics. He has played for the Miami Marlins, and will be the 135th athlete to compete in both the Summer and Winter Olympics.
Many of America's best-known Olympic athletes have served as flag 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 others have had the honor of carrying the flag at past Olympics.
The Opening Ceremony will take place starting at about 8 p.m. Tokyo time, or 7 a.m. Eastern Time in the United States. It will be shown live on NBC, and then replayed in American prime time about 12 hours later.
Traditionally one of the world's great sports spectacles, this year's Opening Ceremony will have a very different look because of COVID-19 restrictions. No fans will be in attendance, and numerous athletes are opting out of marching because of the possibility of infection.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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