To walk or not to walk: Olympic opening ceremony

RIO DE JANEIRO (MEDIA GENERAL) — Swimmer Michael Phelps is at his fifth Olympic Games, but he will walk in his first opening ceremony Friday in Rio.

“I’ve heard it’s four, four and a half hours,” Phelps said of the event, at which he will be the flag bearer for Team USA.

It may be long, but for many Olympians, the open ceremony is an unforgettable, emotional experience.

“That feeling of walking into the stadium is something I’ll never forget,” said Taylor Phinney, a U.S. cyclist who is in Rio for his third Olympics.

But this year, he’ll have to watch it on TV like the rest of us. He and road race teammate Brent Bookwalter, a Rockford, Mich. native, have been prohibited from taking part because they compete starting early Saturday.

“Anyway, all that walking is competition suicide for cyclists,” Bookwalter, in Rio for his first Olympics, said. “We’re not great walkers and standers.”

Whether you’re a celebrity or an unknown, the opening ceremony is designed to unite.

“That’s kind of the cool thing, is being able to get to know not only your teammates, but also athletes from all over the world. And what better venue to do it than the opening ceremonies?” Phelps, the most decorated Olympian in history, said.

“You look over and you’re standing next to Kobe Bryant and you have all your best friends standing around you. There’s nothing cooler than that. I had tears in my eyes. As a group we started chanting USA just spontaneously as we were walking out and I was just like, ‘I’m so proud to be an American,’” said Abby Johnston, who won a silver medal in synchronized diving during the 2012 games in London.

Twenty of the games’ 42 sports open competition Saturday.

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