Olympics ceremony: Naomi Osaka lights flame as Tokyo’s ‘games of hope’ open
24 July, 2021, 10:19 am
Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka has lit the Olympic cauldron to mark the formal start of Tokyo 2020, in an opening ceremony shorn of glitz and overshadowed by a pandemic but celebrated as a moment of global hope.
Organisers also paid tribute to medical workers as athletes from across the world paraded into an almost empty stadium, their smiles hidden behind masks for the first time.
Normally a star-studded display teeming with celebrities, the ceremony was low-key, with fewer than 1000 people in attendance, strict social distancing rules and signs calling on spectators to “be quiet around the venue”.
“With the world in a tough situation because of the coronavirus pandemic, I would like to pay my respect and express my gratitude to medical workers and all those who are working hard every day to overcome the difficulties,” said the president of the organising committee, Seiko Hashimoto.
The ceremony climaxed with a fusion of traditional kabuki theatre – with its elaborate makeup and costumes – and a jazz piano improvisation, on a stage topped with the cauldron for the Olympic flame.
After being passed from baseball legends to children, the torch was handed to Osaka, who walked to the base of the stage, which split open to reveal a set of stairs as the cauldron unfolded like a flower.
She then climbed the stairs and lit the cauldron as fireworks briefly illuminated the sky.