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NBA star Antetokounmpo to become first black Greek Olympic flagbearer – BBC News



NBA star Antetokounmpo to become first black Greek Olympic flagbearer – BBC News

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, Giannis Antetokounmpo is a two-time NBA MVP

  • Author, Nikos Papanikolaou
  • Role, BBC News

Greek basketball star Giannis Antetokounmpo is to become the first black athlete to bear the flag for Greece at the Olympics.

The two-time NBA MVP will carry the flag alongside race walker Antigoni Ntrismpioti in Paris on 26 July.

The 29-year-old, who was drafted by Milwaukee Bucks in 2013 and led them to the 2021 NBA title, was in tears after the game.

“It’s an incredible feeling,” he said after qualification. “Since I was a kid I always wanted to play in the Olympic Games.”

His journey to become Greece’s Olympic flagbearer hasn’t been an easy one.

Antetokounmpo’s parents emigrated to Greece from Nigeria. For the first 18 years of his life, Antetokounmpo could not travel outside Greece and was effectively stateless, having no papers either from Greece or Nigeria. He was eventually issued Greek citizenship in May 2013, less than two months before the NBA draft.

Antetokounmpo spoke about his childhood in a recent interview with ESPN.

“I used to sell things since I can remember myself, since I was six or seven years old.

“I was always out of home trying as much as I could to help my mom and dad by selling watches, glasses, CDs, DVDs, and everything I could find. I was doing that until I turned 17 because I had to. I had no other choice. When I was selling all those things, I was the best seller.”

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, Antetokounmpo was drafted by Milwaukee Bucks in 2013

But even after becoming a star in the US, Antetokounmpo encountered racism at home.

In a TNT documentary in 2020, he said: “Greece is a country of white people, life can be difficult for someone with the colour of my skin. Or of another nationality. You go to a lot of neighbourhoods, and you face a lot of racism.”

There was a backlash to his comments from some in Greece, including Konstantinos Kalemis, then-coordinator for refugee education in the Malakasa camp north of Athens, who used a range of racial slurs against Antetokounmpo and was fired as a result.

He has also faced discrimination from government officials.

In 2018, Adonis Georgiadis, the current health minister, repeatedly mispronounced his name and falsely claimed he had been born in Africa instead of Greece.

Antetokounmpo will be one of the first athletes to open the Games, as Greece – the birthplace of the Olympics – traditionally leads the parade.

Spyros Kapralos, president of the Greek Olympic Committee, said there was “unanimity” in the decision for Antetokounmpo to carry the flag in Paris. He added that both flagbearers will “lift our country high”.

Antetokounmpo hasn’t publicly commented yet, but simply posted a video to X showing highlights from the qualifying campaign with the word “Greece”.

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