Hoy ready to accept 'massive honour' of carrying flag

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Scot would become first cyclist to carry flag if he wins the voting process today

Sir Chris Hoy would accept an invitation to become the first cyclist to carry the British flag at Friday's opening ceremony for the Olympic Games despite the track team not being scheduled to leave their training camp in Newport until the following day.

The flag-bearer will be named this afternoon after a complicated voting process is completed. The ceremony in the Olympic Stadium lasts for around four hours and a number of athletes prefer not to take part because of any physical effects it might have on the eve of competition – few swimmers will be among the parade of 204 competing nations, with their events beginning the following morning.

That is not an issue for the track cyclists as the action in the Velodrome does not get under way until the following Thursday. That means the team are to remain in Wales, staying at Celtic Manor and training at the Newport velodrome as they replicate their build-up to a memorable Games in Beijing. But Hoy would be permitted to go to London a day ahead of the rest of the team.

"You never expect these things at all and if it did come my way then it would be a massive honour," said Hoy. He added that it had not previously crossed his mind that he might be asked, but were he to be there was no question of refusing the invitation.

He said: "You couldn't overstate how much of an honour it would be to walk out at a home Olympics and to lead your team out. It will be an amazing experience for whoever gets it. It's not something you can turn down."

Hoy will be competing in his fourth Olympic Games. In Beijing he won three gold medals but it was revealed last week that he will only have the chance to defend two of them in London after Jason Kenny was chosen ahead of the 36-year-old Scot in the individual sprint.

Hoy will race, alongside Kenny and the 19-year-old Philip Hindes, in the team sprint and the keirin. Hoy also won gold at the 2004 Athens Games – one more in London would draw him level with Steve Redgrave as Britain's most decorated Olympian. With Hoy having won a silver as well in comparison to Redgrave's extra bronze it would lift Hoy above Redgrave on the honours list.

The British Olympic Association has devised a new means of agreeing the flag-bearer for Team GB. The 31 team leaders from across all sports each nominate three members of their squads from which the BOA draw up a nine-strong shortlist. One representative from each sport then picks their top three from that list.

Others thought to be in contention include Paula Radcliffe and Katherine Grainger. Four years ago the swimmer Mark Foster was chosen. The six-time world champion had come out of retirement a year earlier to make one more challenge for an elusive Olympic medal but failed to make it to the semi-finals.

Britain have the largest team at the Games with 542 athletes, ahead of the US and Russians with 530 and 436 respectively. There are likely to be few British rowers, sailors or swimmers at the ceremony. The footballers will be in the Olympic village that night and Stuart Pearce has left it up to his players' individual choice. Little more than half of Australia's 410-strong team are expected to take part in the ceremony, it was revealed yesterday.

Other flag-bearers already announced include Maria Sharapova and Roger Federer for the Russians and Swiss respectively. At 21, South Africa's Caster Semenya will be one of the youngest flag-bearers.

 



Flying the flag: the contenders

Chris Hoy, cycling

Like his fellow Scot Grainger, Hoy is 36 and preparing for a fourth Games. In Beijing he became Britain's most successful Olympian at a single Games for a century after taking three gold medals – to add to a gold in Athens and a silver in Sydney. Surprisingly, no cyclist has ever carried the British flag at a Games before – and no Scot at the Summer Games since 1960.

Paula Radcliffe, athletics

A marathon runner would seem ideal for the long evening in the stadium and the long march around the track. The Olympics have not been kind to Radcliffe, 38. She is a world, Commonwealth and European champion as well as a world record holder but has yet to make a Games podium – London will be her fifth attempt. She may have to weigh any invitation with her fitness concerns.

Alison Williamson, archery

The 40-year-old from Melton Mowbray will be taking part in her sixth Olympic Games. When she walked around the track (behind flag-bearer Steve Redgrave) at the opening ceremony of her first in Barcelona, Tom Daley had not been born; she made her international debut in 1989, the year Rebecca Adlington was born. Williamson has never been merely an also-ran in a sport dominated by the Koreans, and won a bronze in Athens eight years ago.

Ben Ainslie, sailing

This will be the 35-year-old from Macclesfield's fifth Olympic Games and he is hoping to end it with a fourth gold medal – he won silver in his first Games in Atlanta in 1996 as well. The issue with Ainslie accepting the honour would be a Sunday start to his campaign at Weymouth – would he be happy to make the journey to and from the capital and take part in what is a four-hour-plus event so close to competition time?

Katherine Grainger, rowing

Only three women have carried the Union flag at the Summer Games – Kate Howey (judo, 2004), Lucinda Green (equestrian, 1984) and Anita Lonsbrough (swimming, 1964). Grainger would be a more than worthy fourth in what will be her fourth Olympics – she has won silver at all three of her previous Games and is favourite to turn it into gold in 2012. Grainger does not start her competition until Monday, so would have two days to recover were she chosen.

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