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The Parade of Nations Gallery at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum
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PARADE OF NATIONS

Parade of Nations Gallery - Tunnel

One of the most iconic moments of any Olympic or Paralympic Games is the Opening Ceremony. The host nation puts on a dazzling show, highlighting their culture that culminates with the lighting of the Olympic and Paralympic cauldron.

Within the Opening Ceremony, the Parade of Nations stands out as each country enters the stadium, their Olympic or Paralympic dreams finally a reality. 

Parade of Nations Gallery - Team USA

Athletes are in agreement that entering the stadium is the most impactful moment of their Olympic or Paralympic experience. 

Parade of Nations Gallery - Ceremony

You can experience the Parade of Nations alongside Team USA athletes in the Museum’s 360-degree immersive exhibit.

Parade of Nations Gallery - Paralympics

How the Parade of Nations has evolved over the years

The Parade began at the London 1908 Olympic Games under meticulous instruction, including that “every athlete taking part will be in the athletic costume of his country,” and “each nationality will be formed up in sections of four and will be headed eight paces in front by the bearer.”

  • During the Olympic Winter Games in 1924, athletes marched with equipment in hand: skis, skates, luges…even bobsleds! With time, however, the Parade of Nations has evolved. 
  • Starting at the Amsterdam 1928 Olympic Games, coaches and athletes from Greece entered the stadium first in order to honor the birthplace of the modern Olympics. Meanwhile, the host nation traditionally enters last.
  • Nations have always entered alphabetically, but based on the language of the host nation. At Mexico City 1968, as “United States” in Spanish is Estados Unidos, Team USA entered the stadium at the beginning of the parade. Meanwhile, in 2008, the U.S. entered 139th between Syria and the Virgin Islands based on the Chinese alphabet. 
  • Tokyo 2020 brought another change. As the host nation, Japan entered the stadium last. However, the upcoming Games hosts entered second- and third-to-last (France, Paris 2024 and United States, Los Angeles 2028).
The Parade of Nations Gallery Experience

The Parade of Nations has proven a symbol of international unity and teamwork.

  • Between 1956 to 1964 when Germany was still divided, East Germany and West Germany marched together under the same flag.
  • At the Sydney 2000 Games, North and South Korea did the same, as well as in 2004 and in 2018.
  • At the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, a Refugee Team marched behind the Olympic flag and Paralympic flag, respectively, before the host nation, Brazil. 

Flag bearers at the Parade of Nations

Beginning at the 1908 London Games, teams are led into the ceremony by a flag bearer or flag bearers. The Team USA flag bearers are nominated and voted on by their fellow athletes.

Ralph Rose, who participated in track and field and tug of war, first carried the U.S. flag in the Opening Ceremony at the London 1908 Olympic Games. The first woman to carry the flag at an Olympic Games was fencer Janice Romary at the Mexico City 1968 Olympic Games.

Candance Cable wheels into the stadium and smiles with both arms outstretched

In the past, there has typically only been one person who leads the nation, though this has changed over time due both to teams’ preferences and due to the host nation’s recommendations.

For example, the Tokyo 2020 planning committee asked all attending countries to nominate both a male and female flag bearer to carry the flags. Team USA selected baseball player Eddy Alvarez and basketball player Sue Bird as the 2020 Olympics Opening Ceremony flag bearers and javelin-thrower Kara Winger as the 2020 Olympics Closing Ceremony flag bearer.

Take a look at more of the men and women who have been Team USA flag bearers.

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