Olympic medal winners Sue Bird and Eddy Alvarez will carry the American flag into Japan National Stadium in the opening ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Games on Friday.

Team USA announced the selections on Wednesday.

Typically, the honor is bestowed upon just one athlete from each national delegation. But this year, the International Olympic Committee asked teams to choose both a man and a woman to signify gender equity.

Bird, 40, is making her fifth appearance on the U.S. women's basketball team and is a four-time gold-medal winner.

Alvarez, 31, is an infielder in the Miami Marlins organization and a member of the U.S. baseball team. He won a silver medal as part of the short-track speedskating team relay in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

"Thank you to everyone that honored me with this privilege! I will wave our colors proudly," Alvarez posted on Twitter.

The opening ceremony, delayed one year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, is scheduled for Friday. More than 11,000 athletes from 205 countries will participate, and they will walk into a near-empty stadium as Tokyo's ongolng fight against the virus is forcing organizers to hold events without spectators in the stands.

First lady Jill Biden, leading the U.S. delegation, is scheduled to be one of the limited number of invited guests in attendance.

Organizers said Tuesday that at least 71 people connected to the Olympics tested positive for COVID-19 since arriving in the nation. Tokyo and neighboring prefectures are operating under a state of emergency because of the pandemic.

--Field Level Media

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