There can be little doubt that Serena Williams is the best women’s tennis player of this and maybe any era.
There could be no finer choice than Serena Williams to light the cauldron at the opening ceremony if Los Angeles wins the 2024 Summer Games. Now the dilemma. By herself? Because maybe there could be an even better choice: with sister Venus, too?
Both are Olympic champions. More, both have shown not just great but unwavering commitment to the Olympic movement and, indeed, the Olympic spirit. Most important: the Williams sisters are proof positive that you can dream and big dreams can take you anywhere and everywhere. Isn’t that what the Olympics are about?
Serena Williams confirmed Wednesday she is 20 weeks pregnant. That means she was already close to two months pregnant when she won her 23rd Grand Slam singles title, the Australian Open on January 28.
Understandably, the cauldron suggestion is maybe getting just a little ahead of things, because the International Olympic Committee won’t select the site of the 2024 Summer Games until September 13, Los Angeles and Paris the two contestants, and it’s hardly an overhead slam that LA will prevail.
But if LA wins:
The opening ceremony would be July 19, 2024. That’s a Friday if you’re, you know, a planner.
It would begin with a torch relay down the row of columns of the LA Memorial Coliseum, which played host to the 1932 and 1984 Games. About 70,000 people would likely be in the Coliseum for a Hollywood-style spectacle and virtual reality experience of what’s to come next.
The relay would pass landmarks on the streets of LA until it reaches the new NFL stadium, which would hold 100,000 people.
Who, at the end, would light the cauldron?
Surely there are many — for emphasis, many — luminaries deserving of consideration.
Just for starters: Magic Johnson. Allyson Felix. Kerri Walsh. Michael Phelps. Ashton Eaton. Katie Ledecky. Mia Hamm. Abby Wambach. Apolo Ohno.
Serena and Venus Williams grew up Compton, California. The LA84 Foundation — the legacy initiative from the 1984 Games, which funds youth sports in Southern California — has underwritten the exact kinds of programs that helped give the Williams sisters their start.
Playing doubles together, Venus and Serena Williams won gold at the 2000, 2008 and 2012 Games.
Anyone who saw Serena Williams power to gold in the Olympic women’s singles tournament at Wimbledon in 2012 will tell you: it was a virtuoso performance.
In the final, Serena Williams thrashed — just crushed — Maria Sharapova, 6-0, 6-1.
The London 2012 victory made Serena Williams only the second woman to achieve a Golden Slam. Steffi Graf won at the Olympics in 1988 after sweeping all four major titles.
Remember the dance Serena Williams danced at that medal ceremony after she put on her Team USA jacket?
“I don’t think I’ve ever danced like that,” she said then. “I don’t even know where the dance came from.”
Remember last year in Rio? When a number of the world’s top golfers were, like, nah, don’t want to go? Serena Williams battled injuries throughout 2016. Where were the Williams sisters during the Rio Games? In red, white and blue, in Brazil, representing the United States. Where, it should be noted, Venus Williams won a silver in mixed doubles with Rajeev Ram, her fifth Olympic medal. Venus Williams is the Sydney 2000 women’s Olympic singles winner.
Serena alone at the cauldron? Serena and Venus together?
Both are great, and deserving, champions.
Both have answered the call for their country.
If this moment goes from possibility to reality, and again the disclaimer, it’s right now just an if — it would be a great call for their country, in service to the Olympic dreams of little girls and boys everywhere, to do the right thing on that Friday night seven years from now in July.