In a first, India is having two flag-bearers – one male and one female – at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics to ensure “gender parity

Mary Kom, the six-time world boxing champion, and Manpreet Singh, the men’s hockey team skipper, will be India’s flag-bearers at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics, announced Indian Olympic Association (IOA) on Monday.

Bajrang Punia, a silver medallist at the 2018 World Wrestling Championships, will be the flag-bearer at the closing ceremony on August 8.

In a first, India is having two flag-bearers — one male and one female — at the upcoming Tokyo Games to ensure “gender parity”. The IOA has communicated the decision in this regard to the Organising Committee of the Games.

The contingent comprises 56 percent male and 44 percent female athletes.

The country’s lone individual Olympic gold-medallist Abhinav Bindra was the flag-bearer at the opening ceremony of the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

At its executive board meeting last year, the International Olympic Committee had made provisions for flag-bearers from both genders at the opening ceremony.

“It would be a huge moment for me given that it is my last Olympics. Who knows I might even get emotionally overwhelmed,” Mary Kom told a News portal. “I am honoured to get this opportunity of leading the team out during the opening ceremony. It would be an added motivation. I promise to do my best for a medal,” Marry Kom said.

After hearing IOA’s decision, 29-year-old Manpreet Singh said, “I think it’s a huge honour to be named the flag bearer for the opening ceremony alongside the incredible Mary Kom. I have always been inspired by her journey in boxing and personally for me, this is a big moment in my career, and it is also a huge moment for hockey. I thank the Indian Olympic Association for this great opportunity, and I am looking forward to the responsibility at the Opening Ceremony in Tokyo.”

The Tokyo Games are scheduled to open on July 23 and over 100 Indian athletes would be gunning for podium finishes at the showpiece, which was postponed by a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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