8 Aug 2008

Drysdale to carry NZ flag

9:00 am on 8 August 2008

Rower Mahe Drysdale will carry the New Zealand flag at the opening ceremony at the Beijing Olympics on Friday night.

The three-time world champion single sculler was announced as the flag bearer at a formal welcoming function in Beijing on Thursday night.

He will lead the New Zealand team into the National Stadium.

Drysdale is due to take part in an event on Saturday and says it took him a little while to accept the role, because he was worried it would affect his performance.

More than 100 members of the New Zealand team are expected to march in the opening ceremony.

Earlier it was expected that no more than 50 would make it to the ceremony, given that competition starts the next day and many sports are based away from the capital.

Those marching will include representatives from cycling, sailing, equestrian, basketball and swimming.

The New Zealand team will leave the athletes village at 11pm (NZT) on Friday, but are not expected to enter the stadium until nearer 3am on Saturday (NZT).

The opening ceremony is expected to last three hours. New Zealand will march 189th of 205 teams.

Record TV audience

The Games are expected to attract a record TV audience of four billion - over 100 million more than for the 2004 Athens Olympics.

China is fielding its biggest ever Olympic team with 639 athletes competing in all 28 sports at the Olympics for the first time, in a bid to top the medals table ahead of the United States.

Seven golds are available on Saturday.

In all, nearly 11,000 athletes from around the world will compete for around 1,000 medals in 302 events.

The Games run until 24 August.