Elliott Denman, our man on the ground in London for the opening ceremonies (Gary Morgan is somewhere in the stadium, and I get there on Monday), mused about how many track & field athletes carried their countries' flags.
By ELLIOTT DENMAN
Track and field people do it faster, higher, stronger.
You know it, the old "citius, altius, fortius" game.
Obviously, they're folks with a good grip on things.
Like their national flags.
Two hundred and five teams marched into Olympic Stadium
at the gala Opening Ceremonies of the Games of the XXX
Olympiad Friday night.
In a wonderful/powerful/inspirational display of their sport's
No. 1 status in the Olympic world, no less than 59 of the 205
put their flags in the hands of their leading trackfolk.
They ranged from such major global celebrities as Jamaica
sprint megastar Usain Bolt, to Belgium high-high jumper
Tia Hellebaut, to Lithuania discus whirler Alekna Virgilijus,
to 400 titlists Amantle Montsho of Botswana and Kirani James
of Grenada, to long-long leaper Irving Saladino of Panama,
to hurdler Ryan Brathwaite of Barbados, to New Zealand 1
500-meter medalist Nick Willis, to 800-metering Caster Semenya
of South Africa, to the dashing vets, Marc Burns of Trinidad
and Tobago and Kim Collins of St. Kitts and Nevis..
And to Javier Culson, who is favored to win the 400-meter hurdles
for Puerto Rico, and if he did would surely land another blow
to those who'd like to see the island Commonwealth become USA's
51st state. The issue is clear: become a state and Puerto Rico
almost surely loses its separate Olympic status.
As ever, the parade began with Greece, which started this whole
Olympiana thing eons ago.
And more than one in four who followed were track people.
And in they marched:
Daniel Bailey of Antigua and Barbuda,
Chris Brown of Bahamas,
Brathwaite of Barbados,
Kenneth Medwood of Belize,
Montsho of Botswana,
Tahesia Harrigan-Scott of British Virgin Islands,
Maziah Mahusin of Brunei-Darussalam,
Diane Nukuri of Burundi,
Kemar Hyman of Cayman Islands,
Feta Ahamada of the Comoros,
Gabriela Trana of Costa Rica,
Ben Yousseff Meite of Cote D'Ivoire...
That was just the A, B, C of it.
The parade rolled on:
Song-Choi Pak of North Korea,
Zatara Mande Ilunga of Democratic
Republic of Congo,
Zourah Ali of Djibouti,
Erison Hurtault of Dominica,
Bibiana Martina of Equatorial Guinea,
Weynay Ghebrisalise of Eritrea,
Alexander Tammert of Estonia,
Rudy Zang Milawa of Gabon,
Suwaibou Sanneh of Gambia,
James of Grenada,
Winston George of Guyana,
Ronald Bennett of Honduras,
Asdis Hjalmsdottir of Iceland,
Dana Abdul Razak of Iraq,
Bolt of Jamaica,
Kilakione Siponexay of Laos,
Mamorallo Tjoka of Lesotho,
Phobay Kutu-Akoi of Liberia,
Virgilijus of Lithuania...
And still they marched:
Mike Tebulo of Malawi,
Rahamatou Drame of Mali,
Haley Nemra of Marshall Islands,
Ser-Od Bat-Ochir of Mongolia,
Kurt Couto of Mozambique,
Zaw Win Thet of Myanmar,
Willis of New Zealand,
Rodman Teltull of Palau,
Saladino of Panama,
Toea Wisil of Papua New Guinea,
Gladys Tejeda of Peru,
Culson of Puerto Rico,
Collins of St. Kitts-Nevis,
Levern Spencer of St. Lucia,
Kineke Alexander of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,
Lecabella Quaresma of Sao Tome and Principe,
Sultan Mubarak of Saudi Arabia...
And into the homestretch:
Ola Isata Sesay of Sierra Leone,
Zamzam Mohamed Farah of Somalia,
Semenya of South Africa,
Ismail Ahmed Ismail of Sudan,
Majed Aldin Ghazal of Syrian Arab Republic,
Zakia Mrisho of Tanzania,
Nuttapong Ketin of Thailand,
Augusto Soares of Timor-Leste,
Burns of Trinidad and
Tabarie Henry of US Virgin Islands.
And finally, Prince Mumba of Zambia.
A bunch of these athletes will be generating major
headlines in the track and field phase of the Games.
In the major newspapers and websites of the universe.
A bunch of them will generate major headlines, too.
But not far beyond their homelands and hometowns.
Whatever, whenever, wherever, though, just remember.
They all had their moments in the Olympic spotlight.
They all did their thing. They all carried the flag.
And whether you're a Malawian, a Papua-New Guinean,
a Djiboutian or a Belgian, it's still one heck of an honor.
For themselves, for their nation, and for their sport, too.