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Olympic Champion Gymnast to Carry Flag
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The Opening Ceremonies at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

While it's rumored Chinese legend Li Ning may light the Olympic torch at the end of Friday's Opening Ceremonies in Beijing, another former gymnast is sure to be seen much earlier.

Three-time Olympic gold medalist Albert Azaryan, 79, will carry the flag for Armenia in the parade of nations. There are 25 Armenian athletes in Beijing.

Inventor of the "Olympic" cross on rings, Azaryan won the gold medal on the event at the 1956 and 1960 Games, and was a member of the Soviet Union's gold medal-winning team in 1956. He is director of the Yerevan School of Gymnastics. His son, Eduard Azaryan, was a 1980 Olympic gold medalist with the Soviet team.

Gymnasts traditionally do not march in the Olympic Opening Ceremonies. Competition begins the next day for men and the day after for women, and the entire procession can take up to six hours in high temperatures.

2004 Olympic gold medalist Kyle Shewfelt had to decline the offer to carry Canada's flag. Five-time Olympian Jordan Jovtchev was one of two final candidates tapped to carry Bulgaria's flag, but the honor went to a swimmer.

The identity of the person who lights the cauldron at the end of each Opening Ceremonies is always a closely guarded secret. Li Ning is one of a handful of Chinese sports legends rumored to be a candidate.

Li Ning, a triple gold medalist at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, is one of China's most famous entrepreneurs. He founded sportswear giant Li-Ning Company Limited. Unlike many of China's Olympic champions, Li has not run with the Olympic torch, fueling speculation that he will have a larger role in the Opening Ceremonies.

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