The Parade of Nations is one of the great spectacles of the Olympics Opening Ceremony, and ahead of Tokyo 2020’s extravaganza, history is set to be made.
The Olympics has allowed nations competing to name a male and female flagbearer for the first time, with a number of countries therefore electing to nominate two athletes for the honour.
This will be a very different Opening Ceremony due to Covid-19 restrictions, with no spectators in attendance and most nations expected to limit the number of athletes they send to take part in the Olympics’ first official festivities.
The order for the Parade of Nations has been determined for the first time by following the Gojuon order of Japanese strokes, based on the names of countries in Japanese. Previous Olympics in the country have used English to determine the order.
Moe Sbihi becomes the first Muslim to carry Great Britain’s flag, with the rower joining Hannah Mills, who will defend her title alongside new partner Eilidh McIntrye in the women’s 470 class at these Games, in bearing the Union Jack during the opening ceremony. Team GB will be the 19th team to emerge during the Parade of Nations.
Sofya Velikaya (fencing) and Maksim Mikhaylov (gymnastics) have been selected as flagbearers for the Russian Olympic Committee, which will be the third group out of the tunnel. As is customary, Greece, the home of the Olympics, will begin proceedings, while the Refugee Olympic Team are scheduled to be second to emerge.
Other notable flagbearers include Czech tennis star Petra Kvitova and South African swimmer Chad Le Clos, whose father’s demonstrations with his nation’s flag so captured the imagination after Le Clos claimed victory in the 200m butterfly at London 2012.
As is also tradition, the final two flagbearers to enter the Olympic Stadium will be those of host nation Japan. Freestyle wrestler Yui Susaki and Rui Hachimura, the first Japanese basketball player drafted to play in the NBA, have been chosen for the honour at their home Olympics.
In a new quirk to the marching order, France and the USA, the hosts of the next two Summer Olympics, will directly precede Japan. WNBA superstar Sue Bird and baseball player Eddy Alvarez – who previously competed at the 2014 Winter Olympics in figure-skating - will carry the Star-Spangled Banner.
Having overturned their decision to withdraw their team from the Olympics, Guinea will have a presence in the Opening Ceremony, though have not revealed who will bear their flag. North Korea have not sent a team to the Games.
There are 206 National Olympic Committees involved in the games, including the IOC Refugee Olympic Team, which will send an expanded 29-athlete group to these Games after the team debuted at Rio 2016.
There are a number of nations with just two athletes among the 11,326 scheduled to compete in Tokyo. They are: Andorra, Bermuda, Brunei, the Central African Republic, Dominica, Lesotho, the Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Nauru, Somalia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, South Sudan, Tuvalu.
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