Exclusive: Beckham may carry GB flag at Games

Former England captain to be given starring role in Olympic opening ceremony despite his football snub

David Beckham, snubbed by coach Stuart Pearce for Britain's Olympic football squad, will still play a starring role in the 2012 Games.

Carrying the Team GB flag or lighting the Olympic flame are among the options to be discussed by Lord Coe's organising committee and the British Olympic Association in the next few days, with both bodies – like the Football Association – shocked and disappointed at the 37-year-old former England captain's exclusion as one of the three permitted over-age players.

Coe, irked at being deprived of the opportunity to reward Beckham for his friend's vote-catching role in winning the Games, as well as to boost flagging football ticket sales, has promised a prominent part for him at the opening ceremony.

It is possible that the BOA could nominate him as a special attaché to the 550-strong Team GB, which would allow him to wear the uniform, march in the parade or even carry the flag, a role traditionally given to an outstanding competitor.

Alternatively bookmakers have now installed him at 2-1 to light the cauldron, behind only odds-on favourite Sir Steve Redgrave, the five-times Olympic rowing gold medallist. The pair could even do it in tandem alongside other established Olympic icons such as Dame Kelly Holmes, Daley Thompson and Coe himself.

Whatever part Beckham plays, it is certain to be more than a token ambassadorial one, although the debate rages on as to whether he has been axed on merit, or is the victim of a selection bias in the same vein as jilted taekwondo star Aaron Cook, who only this week gave up his own legal battle to overturn his omission.

Pearce has chosen Ryan Giggs, Craig Bellamy and Micah Richards as his over-age players, picking Richards ahead of Beckham because he wanted extra cover in defence. Others expected to make the squad are fringe internationals like Tom Cleverley, Daniel Sturridge, Ryan Bertrand and Birmingham City goalkeeper Jack Butland, the one player available for selection despite having been at the European Championships. Gareth Bale is likely to miss out with a back injury but his Welsh team-mate Aaron Ramsey is expected to be chosen in the squad of 18, which may not feature any players from Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Great Britain's first group match is against Senegal at Old Trafford on 26 July, the day before the official Games opening ceremony.


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