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Who will carry the US flag in Closing Ceremonies?

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  August 10, 2012 01:35 PM

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Actually, the question in the headline should probably ask "Who should carry the US flag in the Closing Ceremonies'' since the matter of which athlete will carry it won't be announced until tomorrow at the earliest, and probably not until the buildup to the event Sunday night. The focus, still, is on the competition, not the conclusion.

But that won't stop us from speculating, based mostly on educated guesses and relevant history.

Our first clue comes from the announcement of a press conference Saturday at 2 p.m. for the United States Olympic Committee to ostensibly provide the media "an overview of the achievements of the United States Olympic Team at the London 2012 Olympic Games.''

Four gold-medal winning US athletes will be present at the press conference: Ashton Eaton (decathlon), Missy Franklin (swimming), Brenda Villa (women's water polo), and Wakefield's Kayla Harrison (judo).

In the past, according to my colleague John Powers, who has covered every non-boycotted summer and winter Olympics since 1976 in Montreal, it is often an athlete who is invited to this traditional press conference who ends up as the flag-bearer.

Carrying the flag in the Closing Ceremonies isn't quite as prestigious as doing so in the Opening Ceremonies; the athletes tend to enter en masse, in more of a scrum than the formal country-by-country introductions at the beginning of the Games.

And proximity is also a factor - many of the athletes who competed earlier in the Games have already gone home, such as many of the swimmers.

The USOC also tends to honor the spirit of amateurism -- snicker here if you must -- rather than selecting the most-medaled athlete or the biggest star, say, someone like LeBron James or Michael Phelps. It is not believed that Needham's Aly Raisman, who won three gymnastics medals here, is under consideration.

Perhaps it could be a retiring star -- beach volleyball three-time gold medalist Misty May-Treanor would qualify -- but often it is someone who has overcome unusual odds. In Beijing, it was archer Khatuna Lorig, a native of the Republic of Georgia who became a US citizen in 2007, who received the honor.

Our hunch is that it will be someone on the podium at Saturday's press conference who is chosen.

And we can't imagine there would be a more fitting choice than Kayla Harrison.


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