For all the accolades in his glittering career, Lee Chong Wei will add a new honour to the list tomorrow when he carries the Malaysian flag in the Opening Ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Ironically, it will be the 33-year-old veteran’s first experience of the signature start of the quadrennial sporting event, despite it being his fourth Summer Olympics outing.
“In my three previous Olympics, badminton always start early so I never got to go to the Opening Ceremony. This is a great opportunity for me and I am looking forward to carrying the Malaysian flag,” said the Men’s Singles top seed, sounding full of anticipation.
“It will be my first Opening Ceremony – and my last.”
Derek Wong is another badminton player who will be on flag duty at tomorrow’s Parade of Nations, proudly leading the Singaporean contingent.
“I am very honoured to be asked to carry my country’s flag. It’s going to be an unbelievable and unique experience,” said the 27-year-old.
“Not many people ever get the chance to do this and for me to do it at the Olympics will be amazing.”
Another Men’s Singles competitor, Soren Opti of Suriname, as well as two Women’s Singles players – Kate Foo Kune of Mauritius and Thailand star, Ratchanok Intanon – will also be in the spotlight, ushering their respective homelands into the Maracana Stadium; a spectacle expected to be watched by three billion people globally.
For those privileged to attend it will certainly be a night to remember – and many of the 172 badminton players competing in Rio 2016 plan to be there!
“For sure it’s going to be one of the best moments – to walk into the stadium representing Austria. I have no stress because badminton is not until next week so I can enjoy the evening,” said David Obernosterer who is also destined for an unforgettable on-court encounter versus two-time Olympic gold medallist, Lin Dan.
Sri Lankan singles shuttler, Niluka Karunaratne, wants to see “how Brazil will surprise the world” while Great Britain’s Chris Langridge and his badminton team-mates are eager to line up behind their flag-bearer, tennis hot shot, Andy Murray.
“We are really looking forward to it. We all know Brazil loves to have a party so this should definitely be memorable,” declared the Men’s Doubles specialist.
Malaysia’s Women’s Doubles ace, Woon Khe Wei, is another player who will be taking lots of photos at the Opening Ceremony as will her Mixed Doubles team-mate, Chan Peng Soon, who missed out on the London 2012 Opening Ceremony as badminton started the following morning.
Though given the all-clear to attend the gala event, only three Japanese players have chosen to do so. They are Men’s Doubles duo, Hiroyuki Endo/Kenichi Hayakawa, and Mixed Doubles player, Kenta Kazuno.