CAPE TOWN - Mzansi’s most decorated Olympian in terms of medals, swimmer Chad le Clos, and women’s hockey player Phumelela Mbande have been chosen to be the two flag-bearers for Team South Africa at the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony on Friday.
The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) announced on Thursday that the 29-year-old Le Clos and 28-year-old Mbande will lead the team out at Tokyo Stadium at 1pm SA time.
It is the first time that there will be two flag-bearers, one male and one female, for each nation following the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) decision in March 2020 to change it from the usual one flag-bearer.
At the last two Olympics, athletics stars Wayde van Niekerk (2016) and Caster Semenya (2012) were the sole flag-bearers for South Africa.
Le Clos has won four medals in total across the 2012 and 2016 Games in London and Rio de Janeiro respectively, while this is Mbande’s first Olympics as the goalkeeper for the hockey side.
“In previous Games, there was one flag-bearer for a country at the opening ceremony, and one at the closing ceremony. In a welcomed change, the IOC adopted a resolution that each National Olympic Committee could nominate one female and one male athlete as flag-bearers,” Sascoc president Barry Hendricks said on Thursday.
“As always, it was incredibly difficult to arrive at the decision as to who to carry the flag in the opening ceremony.
“Both Chad and Phumelela are role models and inspirations for their respective sports, and we’re proud to have them carrying the flag for our wonderful nation.”
Le Clos will begin his Tokyo campaign in the 200m butterfly event on Monday, July 26, while Mbande’s women’s hockey side kick off their tournament against Ireland this Saturday.
Team SA flag-bearers since 1992 Olympics
Barcelona 1992: Jan Tau (athletics)
Atlanta 1996: Masibulele ‘Hawk’ Makepula (boxing)
Sydney 2000: Hezekiel Sepeng (athletics)
Athens 2004: Mbulaeni Mulaudzi (athletics)
Beijing 2008: Natalie du Toit (swimming)
London 2012: Caster Semenya (athletics)
Rio 2016: Wayde van Niekerk (athletics)
Tokyo 2020: Chad le Clos (swimming), Phumelela Mbande (hockey)