Today, the greatest sporting event on the planet will officially begin with the Tokyo Olympic games opening ceremony. The spectacle, which involves both artistic and cultural showcases from the host nation, is traditionally followed by a parade of some 10,000 athletes from over 200 countries. In normal circumstances, we would expect to see 68,000 people packed into the Olympic Stadium, however, due to Coronavirus restrictions, the spectator capacity will be a fraction of that number.
Many of our readers will be particularly interested in the role that some of the 280 or so water polo players that are at the games will have at the opening ceremony. Unlike previous games, each nation will have two flag bearers at the opening ceremony, one male and one female, in a concerted effort to promote gender equality.
Two countries have selected water polo players to carry their nation’s flags at Tokyo. Olympic champion from Rio 2016, Filip Filipovic, will carry the flag for Serbia, whilst Drasko Brguljan will parade flying Montengro’s colours. Filipovic, who signed for Olympiacos earlier in the summer, has won two bronze medals (Beijing, 2008 and London, 2012) as well as his gold medal from Rio 2016, whilst Brgulijan, who is currently looking for a club to play for next season, is also looking to win his country’s first-ever Olympic medal.
Water polo has two flag bearers at Tokyo 2020, but the sport has had twenty-five flag bearers from fifteen different nations dating back to 1912. Yugoslavia, Croatia and the Netherlands have all had three previous flag bearers whilst Hungary, Montenegro and Great Britain have had two.
Nine other nations have all had one water polo flag bearer in their history at the Olympic games: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Egypt, France, Italy, Singapore, Spain and the USA.
With Filipovic and Brgulijan carrying the flags at Tokyo, it keeps up a seven games streak with the presence of water polo flag bearers dating back to Atlanta 1996. As a result, it is the fifth occasion that we will see more than one water polo player bearing the flag.
The first water polo player to carry their nation’s flag was Great Britain’s Charles Smith in 1912. Smith won three Olympic gold medals, including the Olympic games that he was the flag bearer (Stockholm, 1912). To this day, Smith is the oldest water polo player to appear at the Olympic games (45 years and 169 days) and the oldest water polo player to win a gold medal (41years and 216 days).
The only other water polo player to win an Olympic gold medal as flag bearer was Italy’s Carmella Allucci in 2004. She was the first, and currently the only female water polo player to have had the flag bearing honour.
Belgium’s Victor Boin is currently the only water polo player to have held the flag of a host nation (Antwerp, 1920), however, he also competed in the Fencing contest at the same games, winning a silver medal.
Five of the twenty-five flag bearers have represented countries outside of Europe; Les Mckay represented Australia at London (1948), Joao Goncalves represented Brazil at Mexico City (1968), Ahmed Fouad Nessim represented Egypt at Oslo (1952), Lionel Chee represented Singapore at Melbourne (1956) and the well known Terry Schroeder represented the USA at Seoul (1988).
The all-time Olympic goal scorer, Manuel Estiarte, was honoured at his sixth Olympic games by carrying Spain’s flag at Sydney in 2000. He won the gold medal at Atlanta in 1996.
Charles Smith (Great Britain) Stockholm, 1912
Victor Boin (Belgium) Antwerp, 1920
Arthur Hunt (Great Britain) Paris, 1924
Les Mckay (Australia) London, 1948
Bozo Grkinic (Yugoslavia) London, 1948
Ahmed Fouad Nessim (Egypt) Helsinki, 1952
Lionel Chee (Singapore) Melbourne, 1956
Zdravko Ciro Kovacic (Yugoslavia) Melbourne, 1956
Joao Goncalves (Brazil) Mexico City, 1968
Fred van Dorp (Netherlands) Mexico City, 1968
Mirko Sandic (Yugoslavia) Munich, 1972
Evert Kroon (Netherlands) Montreal, 1976
Istvan Szivos (Hungary) Moscow, 1980
Ton Buunk (Netherlands) Los Angeles, 1984
Terry Schroeder (USA) Seoul, 1988
Perica Bukic (Croatia) Atlanta, 1996
Igor Milanovic (Serbia and Montenegro/ FR Yugoslavia) Atlanta, 1996
Manuel Estiarte (Spain) Sydney, 2000
Dubravko Simenc (Croatia) Athens, 2004
Carmella Allucci (Italy) Athens, 2004
Veljko Uskokovic (Montnegro) Beijing, 2008
Peter Biros (Hungary) London, 2012
Josip Pavic (Croatia) Rio, 2016
Predrag Jokic (Montenegro) Rio 2016
For more data download Total Waterpolo’s Olympic Guide