Do Athletes Have To Be At The Opening Ceremony? The Rio Olympics' Main Event Might Be Missing A Few People

The opening ceremony for the Olympics is held the day before many athletes begin their first events, and if it seems long to a viewer, imagine having to wake up and swim a practical marathon the very next day. But are Olympic athletes required to attend the opening ceremony? A myriad of each country's top athletes are always seen at the traditional Parade of Nations, but it's not a required event, which is great for those with strict training schedules and upcoming competitions. For many athletes, the entire event may not be worth the effort.

Such is the case with the majority of Great Britain's athletes, who are opting out of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics opening ceremony. Their reasoning? They frankly have more important things to do — like training to win gold medals, which is fair.

British Olympic Association (BOA) Chief Executive Bill Sweeney said his team's delegation at the Parade of Nations would be small, accounting for the majority who have chosen to focus on their training instead:

We've got ... athletes who are competing 24 or 48 hours after the opening ceremony. So we expect the marching athletes to be in the region of about 55 or so. Given the fact that we've got a total team size of 366, it's quite a small number but their priorities are on competition.

All in all, this strategy makes sense: athletes are required to line up for the parade of nations hours before the event actually begins, severely cutting in to their last-minute training time. Participating in the ceremony would be great, surely, but not as significant as taking home a medal.

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That's why Michael Phelps has never attended an opening ceremony. Though he will be a flag bearer for the United States team this year, this is his first time being in attendance at all. He's competed at the last four Olympics, but his schedule kept him from going to the opening ceremony.

Swimmers, for instance, are conditioned to stay off of their feet the day before they compete, and their events often occur at the beginning of the games. "We never go to the opening ceremonies," Phelps told The New York Times, adding, "because you are standing for so many hours. Being on your feet for five or six hours takes a lot out of you, and it does take days to recover."

So it looks like this plan to ditch the opening ceremony worked for Phelps, so who's to say it won't help do the same for the other athletes missing the event? It might just be the final push they need before taking on the games.