Today--Friday, February 7, 2014--marks the commencement of the XXII Winter Olympic Games with a carefully orchestrated group of opening ceremonies. One of the elements of the opening ceremonies is the parade of participants, which the International Olympic Committee's factsheet describes in this manner:
Tradition dictates that the delegations parade in alphabetical order according to the language of the host country, except for Greece, which leads the parade, and the host country, which brings up the rear. . . . Each delegation is led in by its flag and a board displaying its name.
Being chosen as the flag bearer for one's country in these opening ceremonies is a great honor, the choice resulting from the vote of the team captains of each sport. Typically the flag bearer is one of the athletes competing in the games. Two exceptions stand out in the list of U.S. flag bearers: for the 1906 Intercalated Games (Summer) the U.S. flag bearer was Matthew Halpin, the team manager; for the 1928 Olympic Games (Winter) the U.S. flag bearer was none other than Godfrey Dewey, son of Melvil Dewey, and we trust you all know who he is.
And how did Godfrey Dewey end up as the U.S. flag bearer for the 1928 Olympics, held in St. Moritz, Switzerland? A Sports Illustrated article on the 1932 games reports the following:
The town [Lake Placid, N.Y.] received, in 1927, a feeler from the U.S. Olympic Committee. Would Lake Placid consider bidding for the 1932 Winter Games? No, said the city fathers, who for generations had been content to let slow enough alone. Why not? said Dr. Dewey, who was convinced that Lake Placid was already the winter sports capital of the U.S. . . .
On his own, Dr. Dewey headed off on a tour of European ski resorts—Chamonix, where the first Winter Games had been held in 1924, Gstaad, Mürren and finally St. Moritz for a live viewing of the 1928 Winter Olympics.
But again we ask: how did Godfrey Dewey end up as the U.S. flag bearer for the 1928 Olympics? The website of the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame and Museum (Godfrey was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1970) provides additional insight:
Godfrey Dewey's ski sport experience won him the role of manager of the 1928 U.S. Winter Olympic Team that competed in St. Moritz, Swizterland. He was instrumental in bringing the 1932 Winter Olympic Games to Lake Placid, New York. In 1936, he wrote an article "Ski Hill Design." This article published by the National Ski Association gave the principles, profiles and tables sufficient to determine the most suitable hill for a given site and design profile with assurance that it would give the desired results. For over 65 years he was an outstanding ski sport developer for the Adirondack region which saw Nordic and alpine phases become exceptional recreational and competitive pastimes.
So we see that both U.S. flag bearers who were not athletes competing in the games were team managers.
We should note that it was under Melvil Dewey that the development of the Lake Placid Club took place. It was the Club that made Lake Placid a viable candidate for the Winter Olympics, while it was largely through Godfrey Dewey’s efforts that they actually came there. Lake Placid was also the venue for the 1980 Winter Olympics.
If you’re in an Olympics frame-of-mind, you might want to check out any of our myriad (sort of goes with Olympiad, huh?) related posts from the 2010 winter games and the 2012 summer games: