By Ian Ransom
LONDON (Reuters) - China has continued its tradition of picking basketball players to carry their national flag at the Olympics, naming Dallas Mavericks forward Yi Jianlian in the role for Friday's opening ceremony at the London Games.
"We can now tell everyone that the delegation's flag bearer is China men's basketballer Yi Jianlian," China's deputy chef de mission Xiao Tian told reporters on Wednesday.
Chinese media had already reported earlier on Wednesday that Yi would carry the flag, despite the efforts of the country's sports officials to keep the flag bearer's identity secret.
Retired Houston Rockets center Yao Ming carried the flag at the 2008 Beijing Games and four years earlier at Athens.
China has named basketball players to carry the flag at all summer Games since rejoining the Olympic program at Los Angeles in 1984 after a 32-year hiatus.
Chinese media had speculated that the honor could go to badminton great Lin Dan or former women's French Open tennis champion Li Na among other candidates.
Xiao said on Tuesday the job would go to a "tall, handsome and influential" athlete, suggesting another basketball player might be chosen.
Yi, who also had stints with the Milwaukee Bucks and New Jersey Nets, will compete in his third Olympics for China in London when the men's basketball gets underway on Sunday.
(Editing by Toby Davis)
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