Hannah Mills and Mohamed Sbihi named as Team GB’s first-ever joint flag bearers for Tokyo Games opening ceremony – but will only lead a group of just 30 to the stadium for a scaled-down event amid fears of infection
- Mills and Sbihi will carry the flags for Team GB at Friday’s opening ceremony
- It is the first time that two athletes have been chosen to bear the honour
- Olympic champion Mills becomes the first female sailor to carry the Union flag
- Londoner Sbihi, who also won gold, is the fourth rower to receive the privilege
- The duo will lead a group of just 30 to the venue for the scaled-down event
- Read the latest Olympic news in Tokyo, including schedule, medal table and results here
Olympic champions Hannah Mills and Mohamed Sbihi will carry the flags for Team GB at Friday night’s opening ceremony in Tokyo. As a first, two athletes have been chosen to wear the honor during a small-scale event in the new Olympic Stadium.
Sailor Mills and rower Sbihi were chosen by their respective sports as “athletes who exemplify Olympic values and uphold Team GB’s values of pride, responsibility and unity,” officials said.
The athletes were shortlisted and chosen by a panel led by Team GB Chef de Mission Mark England. Cardiff-born Mills, 33, will defend her 470 women’s title alongside Eilidh McIntyre in the Japanese capital.
Hannah Mills and Mohamed Sbihi will carry the flags for Team GB at the opening ceremony
She becomes the first female sailor to carry the Union flag. Londoner Sbihi, also 33, won gold in the men’s four five years ago, is the fourth rower to receive the privilege.
The duo will lead a group of just 30 to the venue. Fears of infection and the possibility of contact being traced – which could potentially take athletes out of the Games – has led many to be reluctant to participate. Representatives from just six sports will be in attendance, with flags disinfected and social distancing rules in place.
“Being asked to carry the Team GB flag at the opening ceremony of the Olympics is not a sentence I ever thought I’d say,” said a delighted Mills. “When Mark (England) told me I had been chosen it was absolutely overwhelming and when I had a moment to think about what it meant I got quite emotional.
“It is the greatest honor of my career and I hope more than ever that these Games can elevate our country and deliver incredible sporting moments to inspire the nation.”
The duo will lead a group of just 30 people to the Olympic Stadium for the scaled-down event
Sbihi played a similar note. “It is such an honor to be invited to be the flag bearer of Team GB. It’s an iconic moment within the Olympic Movement – people remember those images.
“I definitely remember the footage of Andy (Murray) from Rio and even before I was a rower I remember seeing Sir Matt (Pinsent) and Sir Steve (Redgrave), so it’s something I’m incredibly proud of .
“Going to an opening ceremony is going to be a surreal experience, but this year with the race schedule it’s actually manageable even if I wasn’t a standard bearer.
‘It will be very special and will complete my Olympic puzzle. I won a medal, went to the closing ceremony, but to actually show up at an opening ceremony and lead the team next to Hannah will be a lifelong memory I will never forget.”
In a break with tradition, the International Olympic Committee confirmed in March last year that each country could designate one man and one woman as flag bearers.
Sailor Mills (left), 33, won gold in the Women’s 470 at the Rio Games with Saskia Clark
Londoner Sbihi (left), also 33, won gold in the men’s four at the Rio Games five years ago
England said: ‘After talking to Hannah and Moe personally, it was clear what this honor meant to them. Not just what it meant personally, but for their teammates and wider delegation in what has been the most difficult and unprecedented 18 months for anyone in the UK.”
Both athletes embody the values of Team GB and deserve this great honor.
“Hannah and Moe have already created several Olympic memories and I have no doubt they will add to that over the next 16 days in Tokyo.”