(The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images)

A lucky few Olympians are already guaranteed a memory to a last lifetime from the Rio Games, because they'll have the honor of carrying their nation's flag and leading their delegation at the opening ceremony.

With Friday night's pageantry two days away, teams are finalizing their flag-bearer choices.

The United States announced that Michael Phelps _ who else? _ will carry the U.S. flag into the Maracana Stadium. The swimmer with a record 22 medals, 18 of them gold, was selected in a vote by all members of the American Olympic team.

At his fifth and last Olympics, the 31-year-old will participate in the opening ceremony for the first time. He skipped the hours-long gala at previous games to focus his energies on competition.

"I want to walk in the opening ceremony, take it all in, represent America in the best possible way and make my family proud," Phelps said.

Brazil's flag-bearer will be pentathlete Yane Marques. The bronze medalist at the 2012 London Olympics was selected in an internet vote conducted by broadcaster TV Globo.

France's tricolor should tower over the crowd of thousands of athletes and be easy to spot because it will be carried by judoka Teddy Riner, who is 2.03 meters (6 feet, 8 inches) tall.

(AP Photo/Alexey Filippov)

His peers on the French team selected the 2012 Olympic champion from among nine candidates. With a record eight world championship titles and a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics before his gold four years later in London, the 27-year-old heavyweight is his sport's most successful athlete.

"I can't wait," Riner said of the ceremony, before he traveled to Rio de Janeiro.

"Now that I'm 27, I said to myself, 'Why not me? Why not give it a go?' It's an adventure."

Some teams' choices of flag-bearer carry particular meaning. The United Arab Emirates said 18-year-old swimmer Nada Al Badwawi, its youngest athlete and one of just four women on its team of 13 competitors, was selected "in a message to motivate and support women" in sport.

Britain announced Wednesday that Andy Murray, winner of three tennis majors and the gold medal in singles in 2012, will carry its flag.

Murray said the privilege "is a moment I will remember for the rest of my life and will certainly be one of the highlights of my career."

 

 

Canada's flag carrier, trampoline athlete Rosie MacLennan, said: "I don't think I'll be able to wipe the smile off my face."

The defending Olympic champion said she got the news in an early morning phone call and at first "thought it was for drug testing."

"I don’t think it really hit me until I got off the phone,” she said. “It was very, very exciting and I was home alone so I was just very giddy by myself in my apartment."