RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — Adding another honor to his remarkable career, swimmer Michael Phelps was chosen to carry the U.S. flag in Friday night's opening ceremony at Maracana Stadium.
The pick seemed obvious — Phelps, 31, is the most decorated athlete in Olympic history with 18 gold medals and 22 overall, and is competing in his fifth Games — but he was clearly overwhelmed Wednesday after being selected in a vote of American athletes representing each sport.
"To lead our country into this Olympics is something, honestly, that I never thought I'd have the opportunity to do," Phelps said.
This will be the first time he has participated in the opening ceremony. As a 15-year-old, his handlers thought it best that he not take part though he qualified in only one event at the 2000 Games. At the past three Olympics, Phelps skipped the ceremony to rest up for his first event, the 400-meter individual medley, which was held the next day. The 400 IM is no longer part of his program.
Maybe not the end: In 2012, Phelps famously said those were his last Olympics. U.S. teammate and friend Ryan Lochte said he was sure Phelps would be back in 2016. With Lochte proved right, he had a little fun with Phelps at a news conference for U.S. swimming, predicting Phelps would not, in fact, conclude his career after these Olympics.
Phelps picked up the thread, saying his 3-month-old son, Boomer, would be in Rio to watch him in his "potential" last Olympics. He joked that he said it only to prevent media members from beating up on him if he unexpectedly changes his mind about the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
Pele to light cauldron? Three-time World Cup soccer champion Pele said he was invited to light the cauldron at Friday's opening ceremony but a sponsorship commitment could stop him from doing it. Philip Wilkinson, a spokesman for the Rio organizing committee, did not confirm the information, saying the identity of the person lighting the cauldron was supposed to be a surprise. Pele, 75, said he has a commitment to a sponsor that would make him travel Friday. If he could change the travel, "I would like to have the honor to light it," he said.
Serena, Venus top seeds: Top-ranked and defending gold medalist Serena Williams is the top seed in the women's singles tennis tournament, and she and sister Venus, the defending doubles champions, are the top seed in doubles. In men's singles, the top seed is Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray is seeded second, mirroring their rankings. Murray is the defending Olympic champion. In men's doubles, France's Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut. Murray and his brother Jamie are seeded second.
Murray to carry Britain's flag: Andy Murray was named Great Britain's flag bearer for the opening ceremony.