<
>

Andy Murray flag bearer selection symbolises all that is good in British sport

RIO DE JANEIRO -- Andy Murray is one of the world's best in his sport, a proud champion of the Olympics and an outspoken figure in the fight against drugs cheats.

Aside from his support for Scottish independence from the rest of the United Kingdom a couple of years ago, there surely couldn't be a better choice of flag bearer for the British team at the Rio Games.

Murray's role is not just about leading the small Team GB delegation in the opening ceremony on Friday and keeping the Union Flag flying high.

He will address the other British athletes once or twice and have the chance to inspire the less experienced and successful among them.

Murray should provide the benchmark for the others, too, as he has effectively been made the symbol of what the British Olympic Association thinks is good about sport in the UK.

From a public relations perspective, Murray is a sharp choice given the Lizzie Armitstead missed-drugs-test furore. Who better to try to move the agenda on before she is due to compete in the women's cycling road race on Sunday?

Murray, who has three Grand Slam titles (including this year's Wimbledon) to go with his 2012 Olympics gold, is a consummate professional, and the idea of him erring on World Anti-Doping Agency's whereabouts rule seems unlikely. Having the guy who has called for increased testing and transparency as a figurehead cannot be a bad thing.

His diligence and work rate should also be a good example to young athletes, as he's known for the attention he pays to the physical side of his game and the time and effort he devotes to it.

Murray is a player who has matured and made himself stand out from the crowd despite a lack of the flashy trappings of the famous and wealthy who reside at the top of their sports.

He is a father, a husband, a dog lover and a fan of a range of other sports. In fact, looking closely at him, it is a wonder Team GB chef de mission Mark England and his panel considered anybody else.

Murray won't be the only flag bearer from tennis in the ceremony; Rafael Nadal will also lead out Spain. Novak Djokovic, who has also arrived to play here when the sport's competition starts on Saturday, led Serbia at the 2012 Games in London.

Ironically, the two other best players, Swiss Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka, have pulled out of the competition, and 4 of the top 10 highest-ranked players will be missing.

Murray, unlike Nadal, was due to stay outside the athletes' village during the Games because of the size of the entourage he has with him and his desire to focus on the event.

The Spaniard has reportedly run up against the time-consuming issue of other athletes seeking autographs and selfies while he tries to go about his business.

But Murray stayed in the village on Tuesday night and may spend more time there before finding some peace and quiet to focus on his game outside the commotion.

He summed up his feelings for the Games after his first practice session in Rio on Tuesday. "You are around the best athletes in the world and you want to perform well for your country and your teammates," he said.

"I remember in Beijing, although I didn't perform well, it was nice being surrounded by the best athletes in your country and seeing them come back with medals. It feels a lot more like a team environment and I have enjoyed that throughout my career."

Other nations have gone a different route than Britain in selecting their flag bearers, with the U.S. picking Michael Phelps -- a character whose image has been a long way off squeaky clean (the swimmer has two DUIs on his record).

Nicola Adams, who made history by becoming the first female Olympic boxing champion in 2012, was an alternative to Murray for the Team GB role and would also have represented some laudable values for British sport.

But the Scot's success, fame, conduct and credentials must have looked undeniable. Those involved in selecting him say he was brimming with pride when he was told about it, too, and the only thing that could take the edge off that would be the fact that wife Kim and daughter Sophia won't be here to see him parade with the team.