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Sue Bird reflects on her duty as US flagbearer

Bird, a five-time Olympian, says one of her favorite memories was walking in and hearing the crowd in Athens roar at the Opening Ceremony.

TOKYO, Japan — Sue Bird is one of the flagbearers for the U.S. in the opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics, sharing that role with baseball’s Eddy Alvarez.

Bird is a five-time Olympian in women's basketball. She remembers 2004 when the U.S. women’s basketball team got to walk at the front of the delegation along with flag bearer Dawn Staley, now the U.S. head coach in Tokyo. Bird says one of her favorite memories was walking in and hearing the crowd in Athens roar.

There was some noise for the athletes on Friday night. Just no roars; the stadium wasn’t anywhere near filled enough for those.

Bird says “this Olympics are like no other.”

Organizers expect about 5,700 athletes to take part in the parade. Some will skip it because of early competitions on Saturday or to avoid risk of exposure to the coronavirus. And this parade differs from most others in the past because the nations are being spaced out — a nod to social distancing.

Hundreds of volunteers are on the stadium floor as well to greet the athletes as they walk through. Many athletes are waving; others are capturing their entrance on their phone cameras.

Credit: AP
Fireworks illuminate over the National Stadium during the opening ceremony of the 2020 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 23, 2021, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)

Moments before the parade, a wooden set of Olympic rings was displayed at the center of the stadium in a nod to the 1964 Tokyo Games. There, athletes from around the world were asked to bring seeds that could be planted and become trees.

Wood from 160 pines and spruces, seeds that came from Canada, Ireland and Northern Europe, were used to build the set of Olympic rings displayed Friday.