BOA announces Olympic flag carrier
mchawk | August 6, 2008 at 01:44 pmby
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The 38-year-old from Essex - competing in the 50m freestyle - was chosen from a poll of all the British competitors.
"It means the world, it's a real privilege, it's a real honour," Foster told BBC Sport ahead of competing in his fifth Games.
Foster, who won silver at the 2008 world short course championships, will be looking to add to his 47 medals.
He added: "I put my name forward. I suppose in my heart of hearts, I didn't believe that I'd actually get nominated and actually get to carry the flag. It is a fantastic honour when people in the past like Matthew Pinsent, Steven Redgrave, Kate Howey, a lot of wonderful people have carried it before. I'm really, really chuffed."
It is a moment of redemption for Foster, a renowned maverick, who has had his fair share of disagreements with the administrators of his sport. The short-course specialist announced his retirement in 2006 after falling out with Bill Sweetenham, then the national performance director, over the Australian's strict training regime.
He returned to competition a year later in pursuit of his first Olympic medal. His comeback was assured when he set a new personal best and British record of 21.96sec in the 50metres freestyle this year.
Leading Britain into the opening ceremony of the Games preceding one hosted by his own country is the culmination of a difficult personal journey. “I really wanted to be picked but I didn't totally believe I would be,” he said. “Making the Olympic Games this time around was fantastic in itself, but this has really topped it off. It's phenomenal.”
The opening ceremony, starting at eight minutes past 8pm on the 8th of the eighth month in honour of the lucky Chinese number, is scheduled to last 3 hours. It begins with the entrance of the competing athletes, whose countries will file in into the stadium in the alphabetic order according to Chinese characters. Beijing officials say the ceremony will represent a “high-level Olympics with distinctive features”. Directed by Zhang Yimou, the Chinese film director, it is expected to include acrobats and a massive firework display. About 80 heads of state, including Presidents George Bush and Nicolas Sarkozy, will attend.
After this Olympic debut, Foster has high hopes for the competition, as the last time he carried his country's flag was in the opening ceremony of the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, where he won a Gold medal in the 50m Freestyle.