Today L’Equipe has posed the question as to who should carry the French flag at the forthcoming Olympics. They’ve also questioned whether France – like Great Britain and USA – should allow the athletes themselves to choose the flag-holder. In any event, it’s academic as the decision’s going to be taken by a committee (what else?), the French Olympic Committee, on 9 June. That aside, L’Equipe has been canvassing its readership to see who they feel should carry the flag and then contacting the potential candidates for their reactions.
Two candidates were equally favoured by L’Equipe’s poll: five-times world Judo champion Tenny Riner and Olympic and World Champion hand-baller, Nicola Karabatic: two good choices. They’re both big enough to carry the flag with ease and readily recognisable by the French public. In third place was the former husband of Desperate Housewife Eva Longoria, basketball player Tony Parker. A number of the candidates proposed by readers – all of the swimmers – would be ruled out simply from the timing of their events. Interestingly, while both Karabatic and Parker would be happy to fulful this honnor, Riner wants to focus exclusively on winning that elusive olympic gold medal.
Only two cyclists were proposed: double-Olympic MBT Champion, Julien Absalon and the evergreen Jeannie Longo. The latter’s participation in the event is in doubt following recent revelations in connection with her husband and training partner’s use of EPO as a recovery aid, even supposing that at only 43kg she’s capable of carrying the flag for any length of time. Absolan, competing in what will probably be his last Olympics – and gunning for a third gold – would appear to be a sounder choice. He replied that it would be immensely prestigious to be selected to perform this task. Meanwhile, Jeannie couldn’t be reached for a comment.
Potential candidates should note that carrying the flag could be something of a poisoned chalice. Only five of the forty (Winter and Summer Olympics) who have previously undertaken the task, have gone on to win gold medals. I have to confess that I do think the athletes themselves should make the choice. Nothing is nicer for an athlete than the confidence of their peers. However, I’m with Riner. In the highly improbable event of me ever being in contention at the Olympics, I know I would want to concentrate solely on winning. The opening ceremony and any associated ceremonial duties would be an unnecessary distraction. It really isn’t about taking part, it’s about winning: winning gold.