List of flag bearers for the United States at the Olympics

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United States at the
Flag of the United States.svg
IOC code USA
NOC United States Olympic Committee
Gold Silver Bronze Total
23 12 3 38
Summer appearances
Winter appearances
Other related appearances
1906 Intercalated Games

This is a list of flag bearers who have represented United States at the Olympics. Flag bearers carry the national flag of their country at the opening ceremony and closing ceremony of the Olympic Games. Men and women from across the country and from a variety of sports have carried the flag at both the Summer Olympic Games and the Winter Olympic Games. More than half of those representing the teams at the Summer Olympics are track or field athletes, though that sport does account for the most competitors at the Games.

James Bickford, Norman Armitage, and Pat McDonald have all performed the duty twice. Several athletes born in other countries have carried the flag, including those from Norway, Ireland, Sudan, Germany, and Czechoslovakia.


US team manager[1] Matthew Halpin was the first to carry the flag at the 1906 Intercalated Games,[2] though that event is no longer considered by the International Olympic Committee to be part of Olympic history.[3] Ralph Rose became the first competitor to have the honor when he led the team out at the 1908 Summer Games,[2] the first official Olympic Games to feature a parade of nations.[4] The first woman to represent the United States was fencer Janice Romary in 1968, her sixth consecutive Summer Olympics.[5] Taffy Abel was the first person to represent the United States at the Winter Olympics when he was chosen to carry the flag at the inaugural Games in Chamonix in 1924.[2]

Irish-born Pat McDonald, one of the "Irish Whales", became the first athlete to be selected as the flag bearer twice when he performed his second duty in 1924.[2][6] In 1956 two other athletes led the U.S. team out for a second time, James Bickford at the Winter Olympics and Norman Armitage at the Summer Games.[2]

Selection and reactions[edit]

Lopez Lomong says he felt "blessed" to be selected as the 2008 flag bearer.

The flag bearers are chosen by a vote of the team captains of each sport.[7]

Athletes view their selection of flag bearer as a great honour:

"It's more than a dream. "I keep saying, I'm not sure if this is true or not true. I'm making the team and now I'm the first guy coming to the stadium and the whole world will be watching me carry the flag. There are no words to describe it."

"I feel happy, honored. I'm feeling so blessed to get an opportunity to present the United States of America, to present the United States flag in front of my team."

"I'm still shaking. I was incredibly surprised when Brian [Martin] told me, and I'm still trying to process it all. To be the person leading the U.S. team into the opening ceremony is just such a great honor."

— Mark Grimmette in a statement released by the U.S. Olympic Committee[8]

Flag dipping[edit]

Ralph Rose competing at the 1908 Olympics after not dipping the flag in the opening ceremony

Olympic protocol is that the flag bearer dips their flag to the head of state as part of the parade. It has become tradition that the U.S. flag is not dipped, though the origins of this are surrounded by legend and are widely misreported:[9][10]

"The motives for the original refusal, the identity of the flag-bearer and the truth behind the quotation and other issues remain much murkier in the historical record than legend-tellers portray ... The evolution of this flag mythology reveals a great deal about the complex strains of early 20th century American nationalism."

— Mark Dyreson, Pennsylvania State University sports historian[10]

The parade of nations was introduced at the 1906 Intercalated Games with Matthew Halpin as the U.S. flag bearer. Halpin gladly dipped the flag, noting that when he did so King George I of Greece "staked me to a smile that made me feel like I belonged".[11] The controversy began at the 1908 Summer Olympics in London where flag bearers were expected to dip the flag to Edward VII on two occasions. Research by the International Society of Olympic Historians concluded that the flag bearer was Ralph Rose and that he might not have dipped the flag to the British King on one of those occasions. Martin Sheridan is often attributed with the explanation of this supposed disrespect by stating at the time "This flag dips to no earthly king" but no evidence of this can be found.[11] Modern versions of the story describe how the Stars and Stripes have never been dipped during the parade of nations since 1908 but this is apocryphal. It has been dipped on three occasions since then: 1912, 1924, and 1932.[10]

The 1932 winter games were held in Lake Placid and, though head of state President Herbert Hoover would normally have greeted the parade of nations, the duty was passed to New York governor Franklin Roosevelt.[11] This was the last time that the flag was dipped at the Olympics as political forces intervened thereafter. The head of state awaiting the athletes at the 1936 Summer Games was Adolf Hitler, to whom the U.S. refused to lower their flag.[10] The 1940 Olympics were cancelled due to the onset of World War II and, in 1942, the United States Congress introduced the United States Flag Code which stated: "That no disrespect should be given to the flag of the United States of America, the flag should not be dipped to any person or thing."[11][12] However, since the Flag Code is legally unenforceable, it appears to be merely codified tradition.

Foreign-born representatives[edit]

Pat McDonald, the first athlete to carry the flag for the United States on two occasions and the first flag bearer born outside of the U.S.

Several foreign-born athletes have represented the United States at the opening ceremonies. Irishman Pat McDonald was the first in 1920 and he, at the age of 42, became the oldest Olympic track & field champion. Though he did not compete, he also went on to lead the U.S. team at the following Summer Olympics.[6]

Rolf Monsen, a multi-discipline Winter sports athlete born in Oslo, Norway, competed as an American in 1928 and 1932. He qualified for the 1936 Games and though an injury prevented him from taking part, he was still chosen to carry the flag.[13]

The American team at the 1936 Summer Games were led by Berlin-born, highly regarded gymnast Al Jochim.[2][14]

Olga Fikotová was a discus-thrower at the 1956 Summer Olympics and the only athlete to win a gold medal for her home country Czechoslovakia in that year. She began a much-publicised romance with American athlete Harold Connolly, much to the frustration of the Communist authorities. Fikotová was accused of being a traitor and the Czechoslovak Olympic Committee banned her from representing her country again. Now living in the U.S., she would go on to compete for her adopted country in the next four Summer Games. Despite not being able to replicate her success, Fikotová was chosen to lead the American team at the 1972 Games in Munich, West Germany.[15]

Lopez Lomong carried the flag at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China and became the fifth flag bearer to be born outside the United States.[2] As a teenager in war-torn Sudan, Lomong was one of several thousand boys brought to America as a refugee in 2001.[7] His selection came during a time when the U.S. and other Western countries had been critical of the Chinese government's close links with Sudan, a country accused of human rights violations and war crimes.[16]

Other notes[edit]

Godfrey Dewey, son of Melvil Dewey the inventor of Dewey Decimal Classification,[17] was the president of the Lake Placid Organizing Committee and was largely responsible for the successful candidature of Lake Placid for the 1932 Winter Olympics.[18] In addition to his role as the U.S. ski team manager he was chosen as the flag bearer for the 1928 Games in St. Moritz, Switzerland.[19]

List of flag bearers[edit]

List of flag bearers:[2]

  Born outside the United States
# Event year Season Ceremony Flag bearer Sex State/Country Sport
60 2016 Summer Closing Biles, SimoneSimone Biles F Texas Gymnastics
59 2016 Summer Opening Phelps, MichaelMichael Phelps M Maryland Swimming
58 2014 Winter Closing Chu, JulieJulie Chu F Connecticut Hockey
57 2014 Winter Opening Lodwick, ToddTodd Lodwick M Colorado Nordic combined
56 2012 Summer Closing Nellum, BryshonBryshon Nellum M California Athletics
55 2012 Summer Opening Zagunis, MarielMariel Zagunis F Oregon Fencing
54 2010 Winter Closing Demong, BillBill Demong M New York Nordic combined
53 2010 Winter Opening Grimmette, MarkMark Grimmette M Michigan Luge
52 2008 Summer Closing Lorig, KhatunaKhatuna Lorig F Georgia (country) Archery
51 2008 Summer Opening Lomong, LopezLopez Lomong M Sudan (now South Sudan) Athletics
50 2006 Winter Closing Cheek, JoeyJoey Cheek M North Carolina Speed skating
49 2006 Winter Opening Witty, ChrisChris Witty F Wisconsin Speed skating
48 2004 Summer Closing Hamm, MiaMia Hamm F Texas Women's soccer
47 2004 Summer Opening Staley, DawnDawn Staley F Pennsylvania Basketball
46 2002 Winter Closing Shimer, BrianBrian Shimer M Florida Bobsleigh
45 2002 Winter Opening Peterson, AmyAmy Peterson F Minnesota Short track speed skating
44 2000 Summer Closing Gardner, RulonRulon Gardner M Wyoming Wrestling
43 2000 Summer Opening Meidl, CliffCliff Meidl M California Canoeing
42 1998 Winter Closing Granato, CammiCammi Granato F Illinois Hockey
41 1998 Winter Opening Flaim, EricEric Flaim M Massachusetts Speed skating
40 1996 Summer Closing Matz, MichaelMichael Matz M Pennsylvania Equestrian
39 1996 Summer Opening Baumgartner, BruceBruce Baumgartner M New Jersey Wrestling
38 1994 Winter Closing Jansen, DanDan Jansen M Wisconsin Speed skating
37 1994 Winter Opening Myler, CammyCammy Myler F New York Luge
36 1992 Summer Closing Westbrook, PeterPeter Westbrook M Missouri Fencing
35 1992 Summer Opening Larrieu Smith, FrancieFrancie Larrieu Smith F California Athletics
34 1992 Winter Opening Koch, BillBill Koch M Vermont Cross-country skiing
33 1988 Summer Opening Ashford, EvelynEvelyn Ashford F Louisiana Athletics
32 1988 Winter Opening Nelson, LyleLyle Nelson M Idaho Biathlon
31 1984 Summer Opening Burke, EdEd Burke M California Athletics
30 1984 Winter Opening Masley, FrankFrank Masley M Delaware Luge
29 1980 Winter Opening Hamilton, ScottScott Hamilton M Ohio Figure skating
28 1976 Summer Opening Hall, GaryGary Hall M North Carolina Swimming
27 1976 Winter Opening Nelson, CindyCindy Nelson F Minnesota Alpine skiing
26 1972 Summer Opening Fikotová, OlgaOlga Fikotová F Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic) Athletics
25 1972 Winter Opening Holum, DianneDianne Holum F Illinois Speed skating
24 1968 Summer Opening Romary, JaniceJanice Romary F California Fencing
23 1968 Winter Opening McDermott, TerryTerry McDermott M Michigan Speed skating
22 1964 Summer Opening O'Brien, ParryParry O'Brien M California Athletics
21 1964 Winter Opening Disney, BillBill Disney M Kansas Speed skating
20 1960 Summer Opening Johnson, RaferRafer Johnson M Texas Athletics
19 1960 Winter Opening McDermott, DonDon McDermott M New York Speed skating
18 1956 Summer Opening Armitage, NormanNorman Armitage M New York Fencing
17 1956 Winter Opening Bickford, JamesJames Bickford M New York Bobsleigh
16 1952 Summer Opening Armitage, NormanNorman Armitage M New York Fencing
15 1952 Winter Opening Bickford, JamesJames Bickford M New York Bobsleigh
14 1948 Summer Opening Craig, RalphRalph Craig M Michigan Athletics
13 1948 Winter Opening Heaton, JackJack Heaton M Connecticut Skeleton
12 1936 Summer Opening Jochim, AlAl Jochim M Germany Gymnastics
11 1936 Winter Opening Monsen, RolfRolf Monsen M Norway Cross-country skiing
10 1932 Summer Opening Taylor, MorganMorgan Taylor M Iowa Athletics
9 1932 Winter Opening Fiske, BillyBilly Fiske M Illinois Bobsleigh
8 1928 Summer Opening Houser, BudBud Houser M Missouri Athletics
7 1928 Winter Opening Dewey, GodfreyGodfrey Dewey M Florida President of Lake Placid Organizing Committee
6 1924 Summer Opening McDonald, PatPat McDonald M Ireland Athletics
5 1924 Winter Opening Abel, TaffyTaffy Abel M Michigan Hockey
4 1920 Summer Opening McDonald, PatPat McDonald M Ireland Athletics
3 1912 Summer Opening Bonhag, GeorgeGeorge Bonhag M Massachusetts Athletics
2 1908 Summer Opening Rose, RalphRalph Rose M California Athletics & tug of war
1 1906 Summer Opening Halpin, MatthewMatthew Halpin M New York Team manager

See also[edit]


  1. ^ McGrath, Roger. These colors run: at the 1908 London Olympics, the Irish American Athletic Club brought home gold for the red, white, and blue. July 28, 2008. The American Conservative LLC. Accessed October 29, 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h United States. Olympics at Sports Reference LLC. Accessed October 25, 2011.
  3. ^ What Events are Olympic? Olympics at Sports Reference LLC. Accessed October 26, 2011.
  4. ^ 1906 Athina Summer Games Olympics at Sports Reference LLC. Accessed October 26, 2011.
  5. ^ Janice-Lee Romary, 79; fencer competed in 6 Olympic Games. June 5, 2007. Los Angeles Times. Accessed October 29, 2011.
  6. ^ a b Pat McDonald. Olympics at Sports Reference LLC. Accessed October 26, 2011.
  7. ^ a b c Former 'Lost Boy' Lomong chosen to carry U.S. flag. August 8, 2008. ESPN. Accessed October 29, 2011.
  8. ^ Grimmette: Carrying flag 'great honor'. February 11, 2010. ESPN. Accessed October 29, 2011.
  9. ^ Dyreson, Mark. To dip or not to dip the flag at the Olympics? Archived 2012-02-02 at the Wayback Machine. August 6, 2008. Accessed October 28, 2011.
  10. ^ a b c d Different Motives Sustained U.S. Flag-Dipping Refusal At Olympics, Historian Says. Pennsylvania State University. Accessed October 28, 2011.
  11. ^ a b c d Mallon, Bill and Buchanan, Ian. To No Earthly King. September 1999. International Society of Olympic Historians. Accessed October 27, 2011.
  12. ^ Luckey, John. The United States Flag: Federal Law Relating to Display and Associated Questions. April 14, 2008. Accessed October 29, 2011.
  13. ^ Rolf Monsen. Olympics at Sports Reference LLC. Accessed October 29, 2011.
  14. ^ Al Jochim. Olympics at Sports Reference LLC. Accessed October 29, 2011.
  15. ^ Willoughby, Ian. Olga Fikotová-Connolly: 1956 Olympic champion dubbed "traitor" in communist Czechoslovakia over romance with US athlete. May 1, 2008. Český rozhlas. Accessed October 29, 2011.
  16. ^ Sudanese born athlete bears the US flag in Beijing. August 9, 2008. Sudan Tribune. Accessed October 29, 2011.
  17. ^ Dr. Melvil Dewey Dead In Florida. December 27, 1931. The New York Times. Accessed October 29, 2011.
  18. ^ Bowen, Ezra. Hey—what Do You Say We Have An Olympics? December 3, 1962. Sports Illustrated. Accessed October 29, 2011.
  19. ^ 1932 Lake Placid Winter Games. Olympics at Sports Reference LLC. Accessed October 29, 2011.