When the Canadian team enters the nearly empty Olympic Stadium on Friday to officially start Tokyo 2020, it will be led by Miranda Ayim and Nathan Hirayama.
The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) announced on Monday that basketball players Ayim and Hirayama, a member of the men’s team in rugby seven, are holding the state flag for the opening ceremony in Tokyo 2020.
Ayim and Hirayama mark the first Canadian duo from a variety of sports to earn the honor after the International Olympic Committee amended an amendment in March that allows each country to designate one man and one woman. Ice dancers Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue led Canada to the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.
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“I am so honored to represent the Canada team and lead the Canada team at the opening ceremony alongside Nate,” Ayim said in a video conference Monday. “The last year and a half has required a high level of teamwork, and Canadians from coast to coast have strengthened and shown community, resilience and solidarity.”
Ayim, 33, is one of three Canadian female basketball players to compete in her third Olympics. A Chatham native, Ont., Has already announced plans to retire after Tokyo.
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More from Tokyo 2020
Canada, currently ranked fourth in the world by FIBA, has fallen in the quarterfinals of the first two Olympic Games in Ayim, and now seems ready to play for a medal.
The women’s basketball tournament begins on July 26, when Canada takes over Serbia at 4:20 a.m. CET, and on August 8 goes through a game of gold medals.
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Hirayama, 33, has also played for the national team of seven since playing as an 18-year-old at the age of 18. Fifteen years later, the Olympic debut will feature Richmond, BC, home and male team captain. The men’s team did not qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics, when weeks were added as an event.
Hirayama’s father, Garry, earned 12 benches for Canada between 1977 and 1982, making him the first father-son duo to play on the national rugby team.
“It’s a great honor for me to be asked to do this, especially with someone who is distinguished and has (someone) a career like Miranda had,” Hirayama said. “Very excited to get there with my team and get involved in these games.”
Hirayama is third in a career point in the World Rugby 7 series. Canada finished eighth in the Olympics, but finished third in the last tournament in 2020 before the pandemic shortened the season.
The team of seven opens its game with a couple of matches on July 26 against runner-up Rio from Great Britain and champion Fiji. The tournament is short, with medals expected to be won on July 28th.
“Seeing two outstanding leaders like Miranda and Nathan now ready to lead the way to the opening ceremony for the Canada team is something extraordinary,” Eric Myles, COC’s Chief Sports Officer, said in a press release.
The Canadian flag bearers were unveiled by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday morning.
“Miranda and Nathan lead in their teams,” Trudeau said. “They embody the resilience, perseverance and excellence of the Canada team.”
The opening ceremony like no other
You can watch the broadcast of the opening ceremony live on CBC-TV and CBCSports.ca starting at 6.30 Central European Time. The shows will be available in eight different native languages in addition to English, American Sign Language and the described video.
There will be no fans at the ceremony – spectators are banned at all venues as Tokyo remains in a state of emergency due to COVID-19 – but a crowd of about 10,000 IOC members, government officials and others is expected to attend the 68,000-seat Olympic Stadium.
It is still unclear whether the number of participants in the ceremony will be limited to the traditional Parade of Nations, which typically features thousands of athletes walking to the stadium.
Athletes can enter the Olympic Village only five days before the competition, and many who compete in the days after the opening ceremony have an advantage over the holidays.
Rowing duo Marnie McBean and Kathleen Heddle were the first Canadian couples to be named flag bearers when they were honored at an 1996 ceremony in Atlanta. Skaters Jamie Salé and David Pelletier closed the flag bearers in Salt Lake City in 2002, and bobsled players Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse led the Canadian team at the conclusion of the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
In Canada’s first 21 opening ceremonies, flag bearers were men before skier Nancy Greene played a role at the 1968 Olympics in Grenoble, France.
Since then, Canada has divided the duty evenly between men and women, 14 each.