BEIJING, Aug. 7 (UPI) -- Yao Ming, who will have the honor of carrying the host nation's flag in the Olympic opening ceremonies, Thursday called the responsibility a "serious issue."
Yao, who missed the final six weeks of last season with the NBA's Houston Rockets because of a stress fracture in his left foot, will be the Chinese flag bearer for the second straight Olympics.
"But it will be totally different from my experience in Athens," he said 24 hours prior to the official start of the Beijing Games. "The atmosphere will reach its hottest point. I'm afraid I will have to wear ear plugs."
Yao carried the Olympic torch Wednesday through central Beijing.
"Unlike holding the torch, where you can be relaxed and creative, holding the national flag will be a serious issue," he said. "I will take it seriously."
Yao will be one of two NBA stars to carry their nation's flag in the opening ceremonies. Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks will carry Germany's flag. Nowitzki helped Germany earn the final qualifying spot in the Olympic tournament last month.