Bindra to skip opening, Paes likely flag-bearer
The tennis stalwart could become only the second Indian to get the honour twice. Saurabh Duggal reports. Vishnu may partner Paesindia Updated: Jul 09, 2012 13:10 IST
While the tennis row is getting murkier and the final call on the London Olympics doubles team is yet to be taken, Leander Paes may have something to cheer about. He is most likely to be named India's flag-bearer at the opening ceremony on July 27.
If he is chosen, he will become only the second Indian after hockey legend Balbir Singh (1952 and '56) to be accorded the honour twice. Paes, who won the singles bronze medal at the 1996 Atlanta Games and who is set to take part in his sixth Games, carried the flag in Sydney (2000).
The first choice was Abhinav Bindra, who became India's first individual Olympic champion in Beijing.
But the champion shooter informed the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) that he would skip the opening ceremony because his 10 metres rifle competition was on the morning of July 30.
“IOA wanted Bindra to be the flag-bearer. But before leaving for Germany for training, he sent us a mail that it won't be possible for him,” a senior IOA official said.
“Participating in the opening ceremony will take around 6-7 hours and that might disturb his training schedule. We will explore other options. We will be having a meeting tomorrow.”
The other leading contenders are the Beijing Olympics bronze- medallists, wrestler Sushil Kumar and boxer Vijender Singh, besides Paes.
But with the wrestling competition starting on Aug 9, Sushil will land in London only on Aug 4. He will be training in Belarus and it won't be possible to fly in for a day to take part in the opening ceremony and return to Belarus. Vijender will also skip the event as his competition starts the next day.
So, Paes, most likely, will be named the flag-bearer at tomorrow's meeting.
However, the men's doubles event starts the next day and so Paes also could withdraw from the opening ceremony. In that case, the honour might go to five-time world champion woman boxer, Mary Kom.
Indian Boxing Federation secretary-general, PK Muralidharan Raja, said: “The first round 75kg category bouts are on July 28 and we never know who all will be getting byes.
Since we are not sure about Vijender's availability for the opening ceremony, we have not pushed his name to be the flag-bearer.”