And so the speculation begins. Who will carry the Maple Leaf into the stadium when the Olympics open in Vancouver? This question preoccupies the musings of many Canadians every time the Games roll around because the subject of who will carry our flag prompts vastly different responses, all of which are laced with tremendous passion. The stakes are even higher because these are our home Olympics.

Some feel that the right and privilege of carrying the flag is an opportunity not to be denied — not even if the task interferes with preparation for imminent competition. Stellar athletes who declined for such reasons in 2006 at Torino were, at times, publicly ridiculed and found themselves in the unfamiliar and perhaps unfair position of having to defend their choices.

Carrying the flag is a big responsibility. We Canadians hold it very close to the heart.

There are many characteristics necessary in a flag-bearer. Not only does the athlete have to be of substance on the field of play, he or she has to represent the goodness of Canada. In addition, this country aims to reflect its diversity in the person who bears the standard. Therefore, linguistic, racial and gender equality issues are considered.

Strangely, in a country in love with hockey, our greatest male players who will garner much of the nation’s attention are deemed by many to be ineligible because they are professionals — sort of like invited guests at the Games.

It’s too bad because the charitable Jarome Iginla, a veteran of three Olympics who scored twice in the gold-medal game in Salt Lake City, might be a great choice. So would Martin Brodeur, the most prolific goalie of all time who will take part in his fourth Olympics and whose father Denis won bronze at the 1956 Games in Cortina.

No, it seems Canada’s flag-bearer must be an Olympian first and foremost. The job has to go to someone who has lived the Olympic life and pursued what can be an elusive and intangible dream.

Without naming names, there are so many fine Canadians to assume this position.

By now we should all know who they are because when the time comes they will be wearing our colours and representing all of us.

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