27 Jul 2012

Amazing honour to carry flag, says Willis

4:32 pm on 27 July 2012

Beijing 1500m silver medallist Nick Willis will be New Zealand's flagbearer at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.

Willis was presented with the team's cloak at a ceremony in the Olympic village and went on to be honoured at a black-tie gala dinner hosted by the Governor-General, Lieutenant-General Sir Jerry Mateparae.

He says his selection is an amazing honour - a greater honour than winning an Olympic medal. His heroes Peter Snell and John Walker each carried the flag, so to walk where they, and many other New Zealand legends have walked, is more than he could have ever dreamed of.

Chef de mission Dave Currie says Willis was chosen because his achievements reflect the best in New Zealand's sporting traditions. The selection takes into account a combination of past success as an Olympic athlete as well as an ability to lead, inspire and support team members.

Willis says at his first Olympic Games in Athens, as a 21-year-old, he was a selfish athlete who found it hard to be part of a team.

But he says he has learned so much since then, and as flag-bearer he plans to offer support to his fellow New Zealand Olympians and hopefully inspire them through his own performance at the Games.

Many athletes won't march

Willis will be leading just 39 athletes - a fifth of the team - in the opening ceremony, as many of the 184 New Zealanders at the Games are competing in the opening two days and others will not arrive until the second week.

Willis says it's probably a good decision for many of them not to attend. At Beijing, rower Mahe Drysdale got a stomach bug after leading the team in the opening ceremony, and he finished third in the single sculls final.

Mr Currie says the Olympic village where the athletes are staying is the best he has experienced in terms of design and layout and he is confident the Games are in good hands.