ATHENS, Greece -- Basketball star Dawn Staley will carry the
U.S. flag during Friday's opening ceremony, a highlight in an
Olympic career that already includes two gold medals.
Staley, the first basketball player to lead the U.S. delegation
at an Olympics, was chosen by captains from each of the U.S. teams.
"It's something that caught me completely off guard. It's a
fairy tale that somehow ended up in my lap," she said Thursday at
a news conference. "To lead the U.S. delegation into the stadium,
it's incredible. It might be an out-of-body experience for me."
Staley, 34, plays for the WNBA's Charlotte Sting and coaches the
women's basketball team at Temple. She runs a foundation that works
with inner-city children in her hometown of Philadelphia, one of
the factors that team captains considered when voting for the flag
U.S. Olympic Committee officials said Thursday that they have
lectured American athletes about decorum during the opening
ceremony and throughout the Athens Games.
Though athletes will not be discouraged from showing emotion,
they have been told to avoid overt displays of nationalism that
could be seen by Greeks and others as inappropriate.
"We've told the athletes we can start a new tradition here,"
said Herman Frazier, chief of the U.S. team and a USOC vice
president. "We look for a very nice and orderly team here.
"This is not about being unpatriotic. Let's just be cognizant
of what's around us out there. All we're saying is don't break the
ranks in the lines."
Staley said it's hard to stay calm amid the excitement of
marching into a packed stadium, where some people undoubtedly will
be chanting "U-S-A, U-S-A" as the American delegation passes by.
But she says the athletes will keep in mind that they're being
watched around the world.
"We're going to be more conscious of how we're viewed on TV and
in the stadium," she said.