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.
Athletes are in agreement that entering the stadium is the most impactful moment of their Olympic or Paralympic experience.
You can experience the Parade of Nations alongside Team USA athletes in the Museum’s 360-degree immersive exhibit.
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.”
The Parade of Nations has proven a symbol of international unity and teamwork.
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.
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.