So declared the queen. And moments later, an extraordinary party of courageous humanitarian icons, symbolically dressed in white, bore the Olympic flag into the stadium. I’m guessing that, with one, perhaps two exceptions, they were as unfamiliar to you as they were to me. Ever the researcher, I have enlightened myself.
1. Daniel Barenboim, musician and conductor who co-founded West-Eastern Divan, bringing together young musicians from a variety, and often opposing, Middle Eastern countries.
2. Sally Becker, known as the “Angel of Mostar,” who risked her life to deliver aid and evacuate children during the Balkan War.
3. Shami Chakrabati, director of Liberty, a British civil rights organization.
4. Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Prize winner, who has worked tirelessly for an end to the civil war in Liberia.
5. Haile Gebrselassie, Ethiopian two-time Olympic gold medal runner.
6. Doreen Lawrence, mother of murdered British teenager Stephen Lawrence, whose pressure on the London Metropolitan Police brought to light their racist handling of this crime and others.
7. Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary General.
8. Marina Silva, a Brazilian “bioneer” who has fought against the destruction of the rainforest.
The ninth member of the group is by far the most familiar. Left frail from Parkinson’s Disease, Muhammad Ali approached the flag just before it arrived at its final destination. Ali was the light heavyweight Olympic gold winner in 1960 and memorably lit the torch at the 1996 Atlanta games.