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Thursday, August 17, 2000
Association says Brunet was "first" choice

 TORONTO (CP) -- It appears Donovan Bailey misspoke when he said earlier this week he had turned down an invitation to be Canada's flag-bearer at the Sydney Olympics.

 "It's a total misunderstanding," Bailey spokesman Brad Robins said Thursday. "Donovan didn't understand the (selection) process."

 Bailey, the reigning Olympic 100-metre sprint champion, told the Globe and Mail on Tuesday that he was asked to carry the flag but turned the offer down because the six-hour ceremony would be too taxing on his recovering hamstring injury.

 The comments came the same day kayaker Caroline Brunet was announced as flag-bearer.

 Robins said Athletics Canada asked Bailey "if they could put his name forward to be flag-carrier."

 Bailey misunderstood that to mean he was asked to be the actual flag-bearer rather than the federation's nominee. Athletics Canada would not confirm Bailey was its choice.

 "I don't think he understood the process was 16 people are nominated, they go through a screening process and everything else," Robins said.

 Bailey, who also told the Globe the choice of Brunet was "great for her and her sport," is training in Brisbane for the Games, which start Sept. 15.

 The Canadian Olympic Association had little to say on the Bailey matter, other than to stress than Brunet was the "first and unanimous choice" of the selection committee.

 But it seems clear there was concern in the COA ranks that Bailey's comments had taken some of the shine off Brunet's day in the sun.

 Sports federations chose their own candidates for the honour of flag-bearer, forwarding the names to the Canadian Olympic Association. A seven-person committee -- consisting of three athletes, a coaching representative, a team leader, assistant chef de mission Betty Dermer Norris and chef de mission Diane Jones Konihowski -- chose Brunet from the 16 names put forth by the various federations.

 The COA has worked hard to make the choice of flag-bearer as smooth as possible in the wake of negative comments by freestyle skier Jean-Luc Brassard at Nagano, where he complained that his performance had suffered because of his flag-bearing duties.

 Still it's impossible to avoid armchair quarterbacks.

 While Brunet's choice was positively received this week, there were several columns making a case for rower Marnie McBean, who with teammate Kathleen Heddle carried the flag at the closing ceremonies in 1996 in Atlanta.

 Rowing Canada declined to reveal its nominee for flag-bearer. The rowers voted for their nominee.
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