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Yao Ming to carry Chinese flag in ceremony

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  • Basketball star Yao Ming to carry China's flag at Olympic opening ceremony
  • Houston Rockets center Yao also performed the duty at 2004 Athens Games
  • Lightweight boxing hope Frankie Gavin forced out Games with weight problem
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(CNN) -- Basketball hero Yao Ming has been given the honor of carrying the flag of host nation China at Friday's Olympic Games opening ceremony in Beijing.

Yao presents a signed basketball to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao this week.

It will be the second successive Olympics that the popular Yao has carried the flag, having performed the duty at Athens in 2004.

Yao's exploits playing in the NBA for Houston Rockets have made the 2.26 meter center one of the best-known sportsman in China.

"There were many athletes in our delegation who filled our criteria. After serious consultation we decided on Mr Yao Ming," said Cui Dalin, the deputy chief of China's Olympic team.

Yao has already carried the Olympic torch during its final leg in Beijing and there were reports that he would light the flame at the opening ceremony.

China, who are trying to win an Olympic basketball medal for the first time, face a daunting opener against the United States on Sunday.

Yao will come up against many of his customary rivals in the NBA, such as Cleveland Cavs star LeBron James and Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Great Britain's Olympic boxing hopes were dealt a serious blow on Thursday as world lightweight champion and gold medal favorite Frankie Gavin was forced to pull out of the tournament.

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Gavin, who is said to be "devastated," could not meet the 60kg weight limit and is flying home. He won the world title in Chicago last year and was the leading hope in a resurgent eight-man British team.

Former hurdles champion Nawal El Moutawakel of Morocco was elected to the IOC executive board on Thursday, becoming the highest-ranking woman in the movement and first female from a Muslim nation on the rule-making body.

The 46-year-old El Moutawakel was unopposed for a seat on the powerful 15-member International Olympic Committee board. She was elected by a vote of 85-12 at the close of a three-day IOC session ahead of the Beijing Games.

"I feel honored," she told the assembly. "I assure you I will give my full commitment to work in this wonderful family and to protect the Olympic ideals. Thank you very much for the trust you are putting in me."

South and North Korea have declined to march together in Friday's opening ceremony. Athletes from the two Koreas marched together in the same uniform under the blue and white "unification flag" at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics.

IOC president Jacques Rogge says negotiations for a joint march failed. He called it a "setback for peace."

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