Olympics-Bird and Alvarez named Team USA flag bearers for Tokyo Games

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(Reuters) - Basketball player Sue Bird and baseball player Eddy Alvarez will be Team USA's flag bearers at this week's opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics, the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee said on Wednesday.

Bird, a four-times Olympic champion, and Alvarez, who won a silver in speed skating at the 2014 Sochi Games, were chosen by fellow Team USA athletes and are the first duo to share the honour of leading the delegation into the opening ceremony.

Bird, 40, is the first basketball player to be named flag bearer since Dawn Staley, coach of the current team, in 2004.

"It's an incredible honour to be selected the flag bearer for Team USA," said Bird. "I know what that means because I got to witness Dawn Staley go through it when she was selected in 2004.

"It's an honour that is bigger than the moment in that you've been selected by your fellow Team USA athletes to represent the entire delegation, and it will last forever."

Alvarez, a first-generation Cuban-American, also brings Olympic experience to Tokyo having won silver as part of the 5,000-meter four-man short track speed skating team in Sochi.

"My family has sacrificed so much for me to have the opportunity to wave this flag proudly," said Alvarez.

"I am grateful for my time with US Speedskating and USA Baseball, as well as for all of my teammates, and I am humbled to lead Team USA into the Tokyo Olympic Games."

The United States will send a team of 613 athletes to the Tokyo Summer Games, its second largest delegation ever for an Olympics, trailing only the 648 who were named to the team for the 1996 Atlanta Games.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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