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Longevity 'not key' for flag-bearer
By Angela Habashy
19:26 AEST Tue Jul 10 2012

If tradition reigns, Andrew Hoy will be carrying the Australian flag, leading the Olympic team out during the London Games opening ceremony.

The decision will ultimately come down to Australia's new chef de mission Nick Green.

Should he stick with the convention of honouring the most-capped Olympian, 53-year-old equestrian athlete Hoy, who'll be the first Australian to compete at seven Games, will carry the flag.

While Hoy has already had the honour at his fourth Olympics in Atlanta in 1996, this would by no means rule him out with rower Mervyn Wood chosen twice in 1952 and '56.

Cyclist Stuart O'Grady is the bookies' favourite and, along with shooters Michael Diamond and Russell Mark, will be lining up in his sixth Olympics.

Beach volleyballer Natalie Cook, who becomes the first Australian woman to compete in five summer Games, also can't be ignored nor can Leisel Jones - the first Australian female swimmer to compete at four Olympics.

But Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates feels it might be time for Green to buck the trend - one Coates himself adhered to as chef de mission by naming veteran Olympians James Tomkins (rower) in Beijing, Colin Beashel (sailor) in Athens and Andrew Gaze (basketballer) in Sydney.

Coates now says he'd back a big name athlete to carry the flag, following the example set by countries like Spain or Russia who have selected tennis superstars Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova to carry their flag.

Coates named Tour de France champion Cadel Evens as the perfect choice, but only if he wins back-to-back races it seems.

"The team could get great inspiration from someone who has been internationally recognised," Coates said last month.

"I'd be very relaxed about breaking from tradition if Cadel Evans won his second Tour de France."

One of the main perks of a flag-bearer is the rare worldwide exposure is affords the sport the athlete competes in - something the many minor sports at the Games would kill for.

But while Equestrian Australia chief executive Grant Baldock acknowledges Hoy would no doubt shine the spotlight on the sport as flag-bearer, he says the exposure a medal-winning performance creates is far more valuable.

"Success at the Games is what really has a positive effect on the sport if medals are won," Baldock told AAP on Tuesday.

"So if Andrew and the eventing team were to win a medal at the Games, that would provide us with an even greater opportunity for exposure."

The flag-bearer will be announced at the team reception in London on July 26.

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Opening Ceremony
Archery
Athletics
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Beach Volleyball
Boxing
BMX
Cycling
Diving
Equestrian
Fencing
Football
Gymnastics
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Sailing
Shooting
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Synchro
Table Tennis
Taekwondo
Tennis
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Volleyball
Water Polo
Weightlifting
Wrestling
Closing ceremony
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