Pau Gasol of the NBA Los Angeles Lakers will substitute tennis player Rafael Nadal as standard-bearer of the Spanish delegation at the inaugural ceremony of the London Olympic Games, the president of Spain's Olympic committee said Friday.
Nadal withdrew from the Games because of a knee injury, which meant the Spanish Olympic Committee had to name a new standard-bearer for the July 27 ceremony in London.
The withdrawal of Nadal and the inability of Olympic-team sailors Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez to interrupt their training left Gasol as top favorite to lead the parade, so there was little surprise at a press conference Friday when committee head Alejandro Blanco confirmed the hoopster as standard-bearer.
"Pau represents the best virtues of sport and of competitiveness - he has set an example in sports and in the Olympics," Blanco said, adding that his virtues as a person and his unquestionable skills make the Los Angeles Lakers' power forward "a model to follow for all society and particularly for young people."
"The designation of Pau Gasol as Spain's standard-bearer will undoubtedly add stature to the image of the Spanish Olympic team at the 2012 London Games," he said.
Blanco said that the designation of Gasol, a member of Spain's silver-medal-winning squad at the 2008 games in Beijing, was the unanimous choice of the 25-member executive commission of the Olympic committee.
As for Gasol's reaction when told he had been chosen, Blanco said: "I found him perfectly ready for the task and he told me it made him very proud." EFE