Olympics: Naming carrier of flag too big a deal

By David Leggat

The Olympic rings floating on the Thames. Photo / AP.
The Olympic rings floating on the Thames. Photo / AP.

Every four years, the identity of the flagbearer for the Olympic Games team is a secret guarded so closely that its announcement should be accompanied by a puff of white Papal smoke.

It isn't entirely clear why.

It is the prerogative of the Games chef de mission to make the choice. But to be fair, New Zealand are far from alone in this - Australian team boss Nick Green is due to reveal his choice about the same time as Dave Currie shows his hand at a black tie function tomorrow morning.

Green has been under pressure to choose a woman. It has been a male preserve at every Olympics bar three, the most recent 20 years ago in Barcelona.

And by chance one of the leading contenders to fill the role for New Zealand also did so at those Games. Mark Todd is contesting his seventh Olympics, is a double individual eventing champion and would become only the third New Zealander to have performed the role twice, after Arthur Porritt and Les Mills.

Todd competes the following day when the three-day event starts, but has indicated he would be keen if Currie tapped him on the shoulder.

Certainly the logical frontrunner is defending shot put champion Valerie Adams. However, she counted herself out of the role a couple of months ago. But might she had been talked around in the meantime? Only Currie knows, and he's not saying.

Other possibilities? Triathlete Bevan Docherty, who has won silver and bronze medals at the past two Olympics; and 1500m silver medallist four years ago Nick Willis.

Essentially it's a ceremonial role. Depending on your slant on these matters it doesn't really matter a hoot; or actually it is something which counts. Invariably the announcement has that person called the captain of the team, and a standard-setter. That has at times proved no more than puffery.

Two of the past four New Zealand flagbearers have been women - Barbara Kendall in 1996 and Beatrice Faumuina in 2004 - so at least there can be no allegations of sexism around the New Zealand selection.

This is Currie's last time in charge of the Games team and maybe this is the chance to change. Make the call earlier, by all means do it in a dignified way, but acknowledge it is little more than a light, brief distraction from the purpose for which the athletes are in London.

- NZ Herald

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