SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Speedskater Amy Peterson, who has won three Olympic medals despite chronic fatigue syndrome, will open her fifth Winter Olympics by carrying the U.S. flag into the opening ceremony Friday night.
Peterson, of Maplewood, Minn., was chosen Wednesday night in a secret ballot by her teammates.
"It's an honor anyway and I think to carry the flag in a situation like this, after Sept. 11, is an even greater honor," the 30-year-old Peterson said. "I am sure that it will be one of the most emotional experiences of my life."
Third-generation Olympian Jim Shea Jr. was chosen to give the athlete's oath. It's the same honor his grandfather, Jack Shea, received at the 1932 Games in Lake Placid, N.Y., his hometown. The elder Shea died at age 91 last month after a car wreck.
The flag Peterson will carry into the parade of nations will not be the one recovered from the rubble of the World Trade Center, although that treasured banner will be part of the ceremony.
The International Olympic Committee agreed Wednesday to allow the trade center flag to be carried into the ceremony and be the official U.S. flag of the Winter Games.
After the parade of nations, it will be brought into the stadium by eight U.S. athletes, New York City firefighters and Port Authority police. The athletes will be announced Thursday.
In choosing Peterson, eight captains of American teams bypassed skier Picabo Street, who lobbied for the honor for the past year, especially the last two days. She still could be chosen to help carry the ground zero flag.
Peterson won silver in the relay in 1992 and bronze in the relay and 500 meters in 1994. She also was on the U.S. team in 1988, when short-track speedskating was an exhibition sport.
She overcame her fatigue condition to make the 1998 team and finished fourth in the 1,000-meters.
Shea is considered a favorite in the skeleton, an event returning to the Olympics for the first time since 1948.
CAPTION:Amy Peterson, responding to questions at a news conference Tuesday, has been chosen by her teammates to carry the U.S. flag into the Olympics opening ceremony. (AP Photo)
HEAD:WTC flag in the spotlight
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Some 3 billion people will watch a torn, ragged piece of red-white-and-blue cloth circle the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, carried by athletes and real-life heroes.
And if the winds are light and the snow holds off, these television viewers from Sioux Falls to Sydney will see it fly, just as it did on the morning of Sept. 11.
After 24 hours of confusion, criticism and compromise, the International Olympic Committee relented Wednesday and agreed to let the tattered flag from ground zero be paraded around Rice-Eccles Stadium by an American honor guard.
Unless there is bad weather, the delicate flag -- the only one flying at the World Trade Center the day of the terrorist attacks -- will be hoisted next to the Olympic flame, and serve as the official U.S. flag of the Salt Lake City Games.
"We had a great deal of discussion as to how to honor the flag as a symbol of the heroes of Sept. 11," said Mitt Romney, president of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, who criticized the IOC's original decision.
"This is a way to honor the flag and honor the Olympians as a world event. We feel very connected with the athletes of the world."
At the airport Wednesday night, the World Trade Center flag arrived in Salt Lake City to cheers from hundreds of people. Port Authority police Sgt. Tony Scannella, accompanied by Officer Frank Accardi, carried it in a wooden triangular container that was wrapped in blue nylon cord.
"We're very happy the International Olympic Committee has made this decision," Scannella said.
"I'm sure the Port Authority workers, all the families of the victims are happy and proud. We're all proud that the flag will be part of the opening ceremony. The Olympics mean a lot to all people."
The eight athletes who will carry the flag at the ceremony are being picked by the U.S. team and will be announced Thursday.
In a vote Wednesday, U.S. athletes chose Amy Peterson, a three-time Olympic medalist in short-track speedskating, to be the traditional flag bearer who walks ahead of the U.S. team in the parade of nations. She will carry a different U.S. flag.
The IOC initially agreed only to allow the trade center flag to be raised at the opening ceremony, afraid that a U.S. Olympic Committee proposal to have athletes carry the flag just behind the U.S. team in the parade of nations might violate IOC rules against political commentary.
But that plan brought a barrage of criticism, from Romney saying he "respectfully disagreed" to more high-volume complaints on talk shows and in e-mails.
A compromise was reached just before midnight Tuesday, after a two-hour meeting of IOC, USOC and SLOC officials and their advisers.
"The ground zero flag will enter solemnly during the opening ceremony," IOC director general Francois Carrard said. "It will be carried by an honor guard of American athletes and other heroes, policemen, firemen. This will be a solemn, dignified entrance."
When it's displayed Friday night, it will be an all-American show, carried by athletes from the U.S. team and accompanied by police and firefighters from New York.
"This is American heroes, American victims, the American flag, the national anthem," Carrard said. "This is a very dignified moment for us, but we are in America, we are not interfering."
The 12-foot-by-8-foot flag was buried in rubble for three days and was torn in two places. Rescuers turned it over to a National Guard colonel for a ceremonial destruction. The colonel gave the flag to the Port Authority Police Department. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey owned the trade center.
The flag flew over a World Series game at Yankee Stadium last fall and was included in ceremonies at last Sunday's Super Bowl.
Now, the Olympics gets its chance.
"There is always a question, what is the best way?" said Bob Ctvrtlik, a former Olympic volleyball player from the United States and now an IOC member. "I think the U.S. athletes will be very satisfied."
"I would be proud to see it flown and I would be proud to be a part of it," luge racer Adam Heidt said. "I think most athletes would feel the way I do. It's a great way to honor those lost."
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