LONDON — Team Philippines will march 146th in the order of parade among 205 competing nations when this city welcomes the sporting world with a glitzy opening rites on Friday night.
As the country’s flag-bearer, weighlifter Hidilyn Diaz will stride into the 60,000-seat Olympic Stadium first in line among the 25 Filipino athletes, coaches and officials dressed to the nines for the momentous occassion.
The Filipino group will wear a stylish, Rajo Laurel-designed Filipiniana attire in rayon fabric, and a hat known as salakot back home during the opening rites which begin at 9 p.m. (4 a.m. Saturday, Manila time) to the booming sound of a 27-ton bell.
"I’m excited to join the parade and carry that flag,’’ said Diaz in Filipino, as she joined a lot of household names like tennis champion Maria Sharapova of Russia and Los Angeles Lakers’ star Paul Gasol among the athletes accorded the honor.
"It’s a dream. I am happy,” Diaz told countrymen while posing for souvenirs during a dinner tendered by one of the team’s sponsors on Tuesday during which she won 300 pounds as a raffle prize. "’Not everyone is chosen for that role, so I’m blessed.’’
This marks the first time since the Philippines first competed in the 1924 Olympics in Paris that a female athlete has been bestowed that privilege, which was given to boxing icon Manny Pacquiao during the 2008 Beijing Games.
The 10 other Filipino athletes—archers Mark Javier and Rachelle Cabral, boxer Mark Barriga, BMX rider Danny Caluag, long jumper Marestella Torres, long-distance bet Rene Herrera, shooter Brian Rosario, swimmers Jasmine Alkhaldi and Jessie Khing Lacuna and judoka Tomohiko Hoshina—will join the parade which is expected to last until midnight.
Joining them are chief of mission Manny Lopez, Philippine Olympic Committee chair Monico Puentevella, businessman and shooting head Mikee Romero, coaches Yasuhiro Sato of judo, Chung Jae Hun of archery, Joseph Sy of athletics, Tony Agustin of weighlifting, Gay Corral of shooting and administrative officer Arsenic Lacson.
As the birthplace of the Olympics, Greece will march first while the rest, except for host Great Britain, will parade in alphabetical order.
Coming out last will be host Great Britain, which is represented by 542 athletes, the biggest in its history.