Basketballer Patty Mills says “insanely meaningful” to become Australia’s first Indigenous flagbearer at an Olympics opening ceremony.
Mills and four-time Olympic swimmer Cate Campbell will carry the nation’s flag at the 23 July ceremony to open the Tokyo Games.
Mills said it was difficult to digest the enormity of the honour.
“As a proud Kokatha, Naghiralgal and Dauareb-Meriam man it’s incredible,” Mills said from Las Vegas. “A very passionate moment I can feel in my bones.
“But what does it actually mean to me to be a flagbearer? My answer comes from how this particular person in past years, in this role, has impacted me. It’s leadership, representation and it’s insanely meaningful. It’s inspiring. It’s symbolic. It’s emblematic.
“But I think my honest answer would be, what does it mean to everyone else? What does it mean to the team? What does it mean to everyone in Australia? The thousands of expats living around the world? What does it mean to the next generation? The people that have come before us?
“Because those are the people I proudly represent and will carry the flag for. As the first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flagbearer my connection between our country – the land, the sky, the sea, our culture, our history and this particular moment runs extremely deep.”
Mills said there had been no discussions about also carrying the Aboriginal flag at the ceremony, but he would take one to Tokyo.
“It’s one of those things that I am always going to carry those flags wherever I may be … being able to be a proud representative of our culture, our Australian culture, it’s always going to be there,” he said.
Campbell is the first female swimmer to carry the flag at an Olympic opening ceremony.
“Honour and privilege have been thrown around a lot … I wish that the English language had a few other words that could fully express just the real sentiment and emotions that I am feeling right now,” Campbell said.
“It has absolutely blown me away … honour and privilege will have to do in lieu of something else.”
For the first time, the International Olympic Committee has decreed that a male and female carry the flag of each nation at the ceremony.
But Australia has had dual flagbearers before, in Moscow in 1980, when Denise Boyd and Max Metzker led the team out under the Olympic flag at those Games which were boycotted by many nations.
Australia’s Olympic chef de mission Ian Chesterman chose Mills and Campbell as flagbearers.
“Each is a gifted athlete and critically, a natural leader who has the respect of athletes within their chosen sports and beyond,” Chesterman said.
“Equally, they are passionately committed to representing their country and carrying the responsibility that goes with that. Both have their own journeys and stories, but that pride in the green and gold shines through so strongly.”