Now click on the video above to watch the virtual live stream of the flag bearer announcement.
When Team Canada enters a nearly empty Olympic stadium on Friday to officially open Tokyo 2020, it will be led by Miranda Ayim and Nathan Hirayama.
The Canadian Olympic Committee announced Monday that Ayim, a basketball player, and Hirayama, a member of the men’s rugby sevens squad, are the flag bearers in the country for the 2020 Tokyo opening ceremony.
The revelation of who would lead Canada into the Games was made Monday morning by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Ayim and Hirayama are Canada’s first mixed-sport duo to deserve the honor after the International Olympic Committee made a change in March that allows each country to name a man and a woman. Ice dancers Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue led Canada to the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.
“To see two great leaders like Miranda and Nathan now ready to lead the way into the opening ceremony for Team Canada is incredibly special,” said Eric Myles, Canadian Olympic Committee Director of Sport, in a statement announcing the flag bearers were.
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Ayim, 33, is one of three Canadian basketball players to compete in their third Olympic Games. The Chatham, Ontario native previously announced plans to retire to Tokyo.
“I am incredibly honored to lead Team Canada at the opening ceremony alongside Nathan and to represent not only my fellow Team Canada athletes, but also the larger Team Canada: our nation,” said Ayim in the COC press release. “The past year and a half have required a great deal of teamwork and the Canadians from coast to coast have shown togetherness, camaraderie and sacrifice – real team spirit.”
Canada, currently ranked fourth in the world by FIBA, fell in the quarterfinals of each of Ayim’s first two Olympics, but now seems poised to play for a medal.
“[The podium] was the goal all along. We went into 2016 to do the same, and now we are in a place where we should do that, “Ayim said recently.
The women’s basketball tournament begins on July 26th, when Canada takes on Serbia at 4:20 a.m. ET and plays the gold medal game on August 8th.
The 33-year-old Hirayama has played for the national team of seven since his debut as an 18-year-old in 2006. Fifteen years later, the Richmond, BC native and co-captain will make his Olympic debut. The men’s team did not qualify for the Rio Olympics in 2016 when sevens was added as an event.
Hirayama’s father Garry played 12 international matches for Canada between 1977 and 1982, making it the first father-son duo to play rugby for the national team.
“I am very honored to have been nominated as standard bearer alongside Miranda,” said Hirayama in the press release. “I’ve watched the Olympics all my life and I understand the honor and privilege that comes with the flag bearer. I’ve never dreamed of that.”
Hirayama ranks third in the Rugby Sevens World Series rankings. Canada enters the Olympics eighth but finished third in its 2020 final tournament before the pandemic cut the season short.
The team of sevens opened their games with two games on July 26th against Rio’s runners-up Great Britain and champions Fiji. The tournament is short, the medals are due to be won on July 28th.
Opening ceremony like no other like
You can watch the live coverage of the opening ceremony on CBC-TV and CBCSports.ca from 6:30 p.m. ET. In addition to English, American sign language and described video, programs are offered in eight different indigenous languages.
There will be no fans at the ceremony – spectators will be banned from all venues as Tokyo remains in a state of emergency due to COVID-19 – but a crowd of approximately 10,000 IOC members, government officials and other others is expected at the 68,000-seat Olympic Stadium .
It remains unclear whether the ceremony will be limited to the traditional Parade of Nations, which typically sees thousands of athletes entering the stadium. Athletes are only allowed to enter the Olympic Village five days before their competition, and many who compete in the days immediately following the opening ceremony prefer calm before pageantry.
The rowing duo Marnie McBean and Kathleen Heddle were the first Canadian couple to be recognized as standard bearers at the 1996 graduation ceremony in Atlanta. Figure skaters Jamie Salé and David Pelletier finished the flag bearers in Salt Lake City in 2002, and bobsledders Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse led Team Canada to the conclusion of the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi.
Canada’s first 21 standard-bearers at the opening ceremony were men before skier Nancy Greene took on the role in the 1968 Olympics in Grenoble, France.
Since then, Canada has divided the duty equally between men and women at 14 each.