With just three days until the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics 2020, Indian athletes are gearing up for the biggest event of their career. The first batch of the Indian contingent arrived in the Japanese capital a couple of days ago.
At the Tokyo Olympics 2020, there will be a change in the opening ceremony of the event. In the previous edition of the Summer Games, only one athlete had an opportunity to be the flagbearer of their country.
This time, the quadrennial event in Japan will witness two athletes, one male and one female, leading their contingent in the opening ceremony.
International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach decided to introduce two flag bearers at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics 2020. While announcing the decision he said:
"The IOC Executive Board also decided that there should be for the first time ever at least one female and one male athlete in every one of the 206 teams and the IOC Refugee Olympic Team participating at the Games of the Olympiad."
Indian Olympic Committee chief Narinder Batra appointed boxer Mary Kom and national men's hockey team captain Manpreet Singh to be India's flagbearers in the opening ceremony of the quadrennial event in Japan.
On that note, let's take a look at Indian Olympians who had the privilege to be flagbearers in the opening ceremony in the past five Summer Games.
List of Indian flagbearers at the opening ceremony of the past five editions of the Olympics.
#1 Leander Paes (2000 Sydney Olympics)
Indian tennis legend Leander Paes was the flag bearer for India at the Sydney Olympics. He led the Indian contingent of 65 athletes in the opening ceremony of the 2000 Summer Games.
The 18-time Grand Slam champion shot to fame after ending the country's first individual medal drought since 1952 by winning a bronze medal in the men's singles at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. He defeated Fernando Meligeni in the bronze medal match.
At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Leander Paes couldn't repeat the feat as he bowed out in the first round after losing to Mikael Tillstrom in the men's singles. He also competed in the men's doubles with Mahesh Bhupathi, but the duo lost to Australia's Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge in the second round.
#2 Anju Bobby George (2004 Athens Olympics)
Anju Bobby George was the second female athlete to be India's flagbearer since the 1992 Olympics. She led the Indian contingent in the opening ceremony of the 2004 Athens Olympics. Shiny Abraham was the first Indian female Olympian to be flagbearer at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
Anju Bobby George was the first and only Indian athlete to date to win a world championship medal, winning a bronze in the long jump in 2003. At the 2004 Summer Games, the Asian Games gold medalist entered as one of the favorites to win a medal in the women's long jump. However, she finished fifth with a jump of 6.83m.
#3 Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore (2008 Beijing Olympics)
Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore led the Indian contingent of 67 athletes in the opening ceremony at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. A former Indian Army Officer and current Member of Parliament's historic achievement at the 2004 Summer Games gave him an opportunity to be India's flagbearer.
At the 2004 Athens Olympics, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore won India's first medal in shooting, winning silver in the men's double trap. It was also the country's first individual silver medal since independence. This achievement opened doors for many to pick up shooting as a professional career.
Rajyavardhan failed to repeat the feat at the 2008 Summer Games after finishing 15th in the qualification round, and thus couldn't qualify for the final.
#4 Sushil Kumar (2012 London Olympics)
Sushil Kumar was the flagbearer for India in the opening ceremony at the 2012 London Olympics. The 38-year-old scripted history by becoming the country's first wrestler to win a medal since 1952 at the 2008 Summer Games. He won the bronze medal in the men's 66 kg category.
At the 2012 Summer Games, Sushil Kumar clinched the silver medal in the men's 66 kg category. As a result, he became the first athlete since Independent India to win two medals at the Olympics. Prior to the London Olympics, Sushil won gold medals at the 2010 World Championships and Commonwealth Games.
Sushil Kumar is credited with popularizing wrestling in India through his international achievements.
#5 Abhinav Bindra (2016 Rio Olympics)
Abhinav Bindra led the Indian contingent of 117 athletes in the opening ceremony at the 2016 Rio Olympics. The former rifle shooter was first shot to fame after winning India's first Olympic gold in the men's 10m air rifle final at the 2008 Summer Games.
Abhinav Bindra's historic achievement at the Beijing Olympics led to many youngsters pursuing shooting as a professional career. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Abhinav finished fourth in the men's 10m air rifle event. This was the final Summer Games of his illustrious career.
Abhinav Bindra had also led the Indian contingent in the opening ceremony at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.