Moscow, Jun 13 (IANS/RIA Novosti): Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova is a leading contender to carry the Russian flag at the opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, said the Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko.
"Masha [Sharapova] is a worthy athlete, and she is actually one of the contenders for this position," Mutko said.
The decision is by no means certain to go in Sharapova's favour, he said.
"There is a special selection procedure, there is a range of candidates."
"First, the captains will vote, and then the nomination should be approved at the meeting of the Olympic Committee Executive Board to be held from July 10-11."
Two-time Olympic champion pole-vaulter and world record holder Elena Isinbayeva is not on the list, he said.
Athletes who will compete the day after the ceremony are not eligible because of its lengthy duration, he added.
The ceremony itself will last over three hours, and athletes spend a long time waiting before and after the event.
This year's opening ceremony will reportedly include 70 sheep and 10 chicken as part of a rural theme.
On Saturday, Sharapova won the French Open and became only the 10th female tennis player to complete a career Grand Slam.
She also regained the world No. 1 spot from Victoria Azarenka for the first time since a long injury layoff in 2008 and 2009 saw her drop out of the top 100.