Tennis star Naomi Osaka has lit the cauldron at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Games, ending the flame’s long journey from Greece to these delayed Olympics.
The cauldron sat atop a peak inspired by Mount Fuji. It’s a sphere that opened like a flower, “to embody vitality and hope,” organizers said. A second cauldron has been placed in Tokyo’s waterfront area was to be lit after the opening ceremony.
It’s always a mystery until the last moment who gets the honor of lighting the cauldron.
Sadaharu Oh, Shigeo Nagashima and Hideki Matsui were among the baseball greats who took part in bringing the flame into the stadium. They passed it to a doctor and nurse, Hiroko Oohash and Junko Kitagawa, who ran a couple hundred yards with it.
Wakako Tsuchida, a Paralympic athlete, took it from them and began rolling it and his wheelchair closer to the stage as athletes and others on the floor for the ceremony rushed forward for a closer look.
A group of six students were next to bring it closer to the stage, and at the foot of the stage with the last torch was Osaka — the four-time Grand Slam winner who will compete at the Tokyo Games.
She brought it to the center of the stage. A staircase emerged, the cauldron opened and Osaka walked to the top, the Olympic and Japanese flags blowing in the breeze off to her left. She dipped the flame in, the cauldron ignited and fireworks filled the sky.
At long last, the Tokyo Olympics have officially been declared open by Japan’s Emperor Naruhito.
The games, delayed for a year by the pandemic, have had competition taking place since earlier in the week, but are not considered officially having started until the opening ceremony.
Seiko Hashimoto is the president of the Tokyo Organizing Committee and told the athletes, “I greet you all from the bottom of my heart.” She spoke of what Japan has been through during the planning for the Olympics, including the recovery from a devastating earthquake and the ongoing fight with the pandemic.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach also spoke, saying the Olympics are again showing the “unifying power of sport.”
Bach began his remarks by telling those in the stadium, “Today is a moment of hope. Yes, it is very different from what all of us had imagined. But let us cherish this moment. Finally, we are all here together.”
After Bach spoke and the Emperor made his declaration, the Olympic flag was carried into the stadium, with pandemic frontline workers being honored in that portion of the ceremony. The workers were from Tokyo, but represented all those who have been on the front lines globally.
From there, a choir of Japanese students sang as a prequel to the traditional release of doves, the Olympic gesture to express a desire for world peace.
An array of singers, including John Legend and Keith Urban, have performed “Imagine” at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics.
The song’s inclusion was a nod to the song that John Lennon and Yoko Ono co-wrote 50 years ago. The singers appeared on video.
“We’re not the first to say ‘Imagine no countries’ or ‘Give peace a chance,’ but we’re carrying that torch, like the Olympic torch, passing it hand to hand, to each other, to each country, to each generation,” Lennon once said. “And that’s our job.”