Canada’s flag bearers are not famous, but they deserve
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Canada unveiled its flag bearers for the opening ceremony
In the past, each country typically selected an athlete to carry their flag into the stadium for the Parade of Nations portion of the Olympic Opening Ceremony. But, as part of its “gender parity” initiatives, the International Olympic Committee recently changed its guidelines to encourage countries to choose a man and a woman to share the role in Tokyo.
Canada’s flag bearers, announced this morning by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, are basketball player Miranda Ayim and rugby sevens Nathan Hirayama.
Ayim, 33, is set to compete in his third and possibly final Olympics. The 6-foot-3 forward from London, Ont., Plans to retire after Tokyo, where the fourth-placed Canadian women’s team has a chance to win their first Olympic medal. Ayim played three WNBA games in 2011, spending the rest of his professional career abroad. She played the last few seasons for the Basket Landes of the French league, helping them in the championship this year by averaging 11 points per game in her farewell season. Basket Landes will withdraw its number during a ceremony in September. Ayim and the Canadian team will play their first Olympic game next Monday at 4:20 am ET against Serbia.
Hirayama, also 33, is from Richmond, British Columbia. He has played for the Canadian Men’s Rugby Sevens team since he was 18. Series. The Canadian men’s team, which finished eighth in the seven-a-side standings last year, did not qualify for rugby sevens’ Olympic debut in 2016, so this will be Hirayama’s first Olympic appearance. He has competed in three Commonwealth Games and three Pan American Games. The Canadian men will play their first game Sunday at 8:30 p.m. ET against Rio Olympics silver medalist Great Britain.
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This will not be the first time that two athletes will carry the Canadian flag at an Olympic ceremony. Ice dancing icons Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir made it for the opening in Pyeongchang in 2018, while bobsleigh teammates Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse, figure skating duo Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, and the pair of rowing Marnie McBean and Kathleen Heddle shared the honor for a closing ceremony after winning gold.
The selection of Hirayama and Ayim surprised most Canadians. It doesn’t take anything away from them – by all accounts they are great people who work hard, play at a high level and have earned their long careers. They deserve it and they will be excellent representatives of their country at the opening ceremony. As Trudeau said, “Miranda and Nathan are leaders within their respective teams. They embody the resilience, persistence and excellence of Team Canada.
It’s just that there seemed to be several more famous, and arguably more accomplished, options. To name a few: women’s soccer captain Christine Sinclair is the all-time top scorer in international soccer and already owns two Olympic medals; 2016 decathlon bronze medalist Damian Warner is a gold medal contender in Tokyo; and sprinter Andre De Grasse and swimmer Penny Oleksiak won a total of seven medals in Rio. Much of the country knows these names.
But choosing the flag bearers for the Opening Ceremony is as much about finding athletes ready and available to do the job as it is about selecting the best resumes. Sinclair, for example, is playing 800 kilometers away in Sapporo for his first two matches. The swimmers are in the pool the day after the opening ceremony. And the Tokyo Games have even more scheduling conflicts than normal. Athletes have been asked to arrive no earlier than five days before their events – while excluding anyone in athletics, which begins a week after the ceremony. It is also fair to wonder if some athletes may have declined an offer because they are uncomfortable attending such an important event during a pandemic. Spectators are banned from the Games, but an audience of some 10,000 IOC members, government types and other personalities are expected to be present at the 68,000-seat Tokyo Olympic Stadium.
Live coverage of the Opening Ceremony begins Friday at 6:30 a.m. ET on the CBC Television Network, CBC Gem, the CBC Olympics app and the CBC Sports Tokyo 2020 website. The ceremony begins at 7:00 a.m. ET. and will rebroadcast on CBC TV at 7 p.m. ET. Live broadcasts are provided in multiple languages, including eight Indigenous languages. Read more about it here and find out more about Canada’s flag bearers here.
Olympic competition starts tomorrow. Although the Opening Ceremony only takes place Friday morning in Canadian time zones, events will kick off Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET with a women’s softball game between Australia and host Japan. Canadian athletes kick in hours later when the third-ranked women’s softball team face Mexico Wednesday at 2 a.m.ET. Shortly thereafter, the Canadian women’s soccer team began their quest for a third consecutive Olympic medal Wednesday at 6:30 a.m.ET against Japan. We will say more about Canada’s women’s softball and soccer teams in tomorrow’s newsletter. For now, I just wanted to let you know that the Tokyo Olympics are coming soon.
The British Open set the stage well for the Olympic men’s golf tournament. Young star Collin Morikawa – one of four Americans who will play at Kasumigaseki Country Club in Saitama from July 28 in Canadian time zones – made history yesterday with his two-stage victory in England. The 24-year-old, who won the PGA Championship last year, has become the first player in men’s golf history to win his debut in two different majors. Morikawa was already the first man of Japanese descent to win a major tournament, beating this year’s Masters champion, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, by about eight months. Matsuyama will be the home fan favorite at the Olympics, while Spaniard Jon Rahm is the betting favorite after reclaiming first place in the world rankings by finishing third to the British after winning the US Open. Morikawa is ranked third – one place behind fellow American Dustin Johnson, who dropped out of the Olympics. Canada’s two entries in the men’s Olympic tournament both performed well with the Brits: Mackenzie Hughes tied for sixth while Corey Conners tied for 15th. They are now ranked 53rd and 36th in the world, respectively. Canada’s top ranked golfer – Brooke Henderson, who sits seventh on the women’s list – is playing in a major tournament this week. The Evian Championship begins Thursday in France. Henderson and Alena Sharp, 150th, are Canada’s entries for the women’s Olympic event, which begins Aug. 3 in Canadian time zones. Read more about Morikawa’s victory at the British Open here.
Three athletes from the Olympic Village have now tested positive for COVID-19. Two South African footballers had their cases announced on Sunday, and today the Czech Republic team said a beach volleyball player tested positive. Also today, it was confirmed that gymnast Kara Eaker, a replacement for the United States team, had tested positive during a training camp in Japan. The Czech beach volleyball player and his playing partner could miss their opening game next Monday if the infected player is not cleared by then. The South African men’s soccer team plays its first game this Thursday in Tokyo. The two players and a team video analyst who also tested positive are isolated and the entire team is tested daily. Tokyo authorities reported 727 new cases of COVID-19 today. A week ago, the tally was 502. About 22% of the total population of Japan is fully vaccinated.
Welcome to the Olympic Games behind closed doors. With the increase in COVID-19 cases in Tokyo, fans are being banned from all Olympic venues – indoor and outdoor – and citizens are urged to stay in their homes and avoid congregating. Upon arriving in Tokyo yesterday, CBC Sports reporter Devin Heroux was hit by all the walls, fences and various barricades put in place to prevent people from gathering to experience the Games. This after spending almost 10 hours at the airport undergoing tests, document checks and other security measures. Read Devin’s 29-Hour Travel Odyssey and his first impressions of how locals receive the Olympics (not very warmly) here.
You are aware. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.