Dawn Staley said she figured the news that she was selected to carry the U.S. flag at Friday's Opening Ceremonies would travel fast.
Once she called home, that is.
"I definitely have to call my mother," she said. "If I made that call, I think the entire world would know."
Staley, a University of Virginia graduate who plays for the WNBA's Charlotte Sting, was selected to lead the U.S. team into the Olympic Stadium after being nominated for the honor by her basketball teammates. Staley, a three-time Olympian who coaches the women's team at Temple University in Philadelphia, said she was moved by the news.
"It's something you don't dream about," she said. "It's a fantasy that somehow ended up in my lap. I will do it proudly. I will do it honorably."
The U.S. athletes have been instructed to march in an orderly manner so as not to slow down the procession, and they've been urged to carry themselves with dignity at all times. U.S. Olympic Committee officials say they are responding to the political climate and the fact that some U.S. athletes have pranced and preened obnoxiously in the past, creating a poor international impression.
"We have talked about the state of the world, and we've also talked about the behavior issues that have happened in the past," USOC CEO Jim Scherr said. "We can start a new tradition with these Games here."
"I'm quite sure we are going to be more conscious of how we are viewed on TV and in the stadium," Staley said. " . . . It was something we've never heard before, being briefed."
Staley said she wasn't worried about security or the possibility that fans upset with U.S. politics would take their frustrations out on the U.S. team.
"I'm a proud American," she said. "I can't control how other people see us. . . . There have been decisions made that are outside of my control. I love my country. . . . I'm going to walk into that stadium as proud as proud can be."
The U.S. delegation will parade into the Olympic Stadium far earlier than usual. Games organizers used the Greek alphabet to determine the procession order and translated the United States based on its name in French (an official language of the Olympic movement): Etats-Unis D'Amerique. The United States will enter the stadium after the United Arab Emirates and before Japan.
Athens organizers are asking athletes to try to stay in eight lanes (because the track has eight lanes) so as to maintain the pace of the procession.
"They'll be free to show exuberance and excitement being part of a great sporting event," Scherr said. But "we know we have to do a better job of getting them to march in an orderly fashion."
The U.S. delegation is the largest, but it will be lacking six people who traditionally march in the front. Scherr, USOC President Peter Ueberroth and four other officials have decided not to participate in the procession so the focus can be on the U.S. Olympians.
About only 30 to 65 of the U.S. Olympians will be staying outside of the Olympic Village, USOC officials said. Those athletes will be provided with security, sources have said.