Michael Phelps did not walk in the Opening Ceremony at the 2000, 2004, 2008 or 2012 Olympics, but he hinted that he might participate in the 2016 edition.
“I’ve never walked in an Opening Ceremony before. I don’t think I will. I might. It’ll be a game-time decision whether or not I do it. It’d be cool to carry the flag if I could, but I don’t know if they’ll do that.”
Later in his Facebook live broadcast, Phelps explained the philosophy behind swimmers only participating in the Closing, but not Opening Ceremony.
“A lot of swimmers don’t normally walk in the Opening Ceremony because swimming is the first week. We’re the first eight days of competition. It’s kind of tough when for me, in the past I would swim the 400m IM [individual medley] on the first day. I get up and go right from the get-go. It’s tough to be on your legs for that long. You’re on your legs for like six or seven hours and it’s a long night. The U.S. is one of the last teams to come out. It’s a lot of standing around. I haven’t really wanted to do it because I was so focused on some of the other events that I was swimming.”
Phelps added that he plans on swimming each of the events he qualified for at the U.S. Olympic Trials: the 100m and 200m butterfly plus the 200m IM. The second day of swimming competition includes the 4x100m freestyle relay – an event Phelps has historically been a part of – which could throw a monkey wrench in his plans. He discussed his participation in that relay, too. Otherwise, his first day of racing would be the third day of competition, when he’ll have the preliminary heats and (almost definitely) the semifinal of the 200m butterfly.
“If they put me in the relay, they put me in the relay,” he said. “That’s a coaching call and they put the four best guys on the relay that they think have the best chance to win. If they put me on it, then they put me on it. It would be good to have some of the younger guys step up and be able to take over what we’ve done and what the older guys have built over the last couple of Games. It would be good to see some young guys just go berserk and put up some fast times.”
Katie Ledecky walked in the Opening Ceremony at the 2012 London Games on July 27 and went on to win the gold medal in the 800m freestyle on August 3.
“I felt really lucky that I did have that opportunity to get all dressed up and go to Opening Ceremony and have that experience, got to see Paul McCartney play,” Ledecky told NBC Olympics. “I got to see the torch lit. It was a pretty surreal moment, walking into that stadium. That was my first Olympic experience and I remembered watching Opening Ceremonies in past Olympics and seeing how cool it looked to walk into that stadium and be with Team USA and one side was doing that. I had goosebumps for probably an hour.”