Olympic Notebook: Lomong will carry U.S. flag
The Olympic notebook …
DALIAN, China ó Eight years ago, Lopez Lomong didn’t even have a country. Now he’ll be carrying the flag for his adopted nation, leading the U.S. Olympic team at opening ceremonies Friday night.
Lomong, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, won a vote of team captains Wednesday to earn the honor of leading America’s contingent into the 90,000-seat Bird’s Nest Stadium.
The 1,500-meter track runner will be the flagbearer only 13 months after becoming a U.S. citizen.
“It’s more than a dream,” Lomong said. “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.”
He was born in Sudan, separated from his parents at the point of a gun at age 6, and with the help of friends, he escaped confinement and made it to a refugee camp in Kenya. In 2001, he was brought to America as part of a program to relocate lost children from war-torn Sudan.
Former Olympic speedskater Joey Cheek had his visa revoked by Chinese authorities Wednesday, hours before he was set to travel to Beijing to promote his effort urging China to help make peace in the war-torn Darfur section of Sudan.
Cheek, the president and co-founder of a collection of Olympic athletes known as Team Darfur, was planning to spend about two weeks in China, when he received an unexpected call.
A native of Greensboro, Cheek won a gold medal in the 500-meter and a silver medal in the 1,000-meter events at the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, in 2006.
Cheek was told they were denying him entrance into the country and were “not required to give a reason.”
“I didn’t see it coming,” Cheek said. “I figured once they gave me a visa, I wouldn’t imagine they wouldn’t allow me to come in later. That was a big shock.”
Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and the U.S. basketball arrived in Beijing amid near pandemonium Wednesday after fans waited hours for a glimpse of their basketball heroes.
Players left Beijing’s airport by a side door and boarded a bus in a secure VIP area before driving into the city.
Dozens of fans, most wielding cell phones or digital cameras, mounted a spiked iron fence to get a closer look, many shouting “Kou-bi-er” ó the local rendering of Kobe Bryant’s name ó in hopes of getting his attention.