Tennis star Naomi Osaka of Japan had the distinct honour of serving as the final torchbearer of the Olympic Torch Relay, lighting the cauldron inside Olympic Stadium for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 in 2021. The four-time major winner and Japanese superstar in tennis was the final torchbearer as part of the Olympic Torch Relay at the Tokyo 2020 Opening Ceremony on Friday after a year’s pandemic delay and lingering coronavirus threats. Osaka, 23, is a four-time major champion in tennis who is making her Olympic debut. She won her fourth Grand Slam title at the Australian Open earlier in 2021.
Her lighting of the cauldron served as one of the final moments of a moving Opening Ceremony, leading the way with hope for the world and furthering the "Stronger Together" message that has been embraced by these Games.
Japan’s Emperor Naruhito officially opened the Games in an eerily empty Olympic Stadium, after Covid-19 forced organisers to ban spectators at all but a handful of venues.
“I declare open the Games of Tokyo,” said the monarch, wearing a white surgical mask, in Tokyo’s 68,000-capacity Olympic Stadium.
Osaka lifted the torch to the gleaming cauldron, which had unfurled at the top of a ramp representing Mount Fuji, in the highlight of a ceremony that was stripped back over virus fears.
The lighting of the cauldron marked the final step of a long journey for the Olympic Torch through Japan, at the end of a relay that began on 25 March 2021. The torch is designed in the shape of cherry blossom, a symbol close to the hearts of the Japanese people.
The torch entered into Olympic stadium, carried by Olympic champions Nomura Tadahiro (judo) and Yoshida Saori (wrestling), and was handed off to Japanese baseball legends Hideki Matsui, Shigeo Nagashima, and Oh Sadaharu.
It was then a pair of healthcare first responders who took the flame, passing it along to Tsuchida Wakako, a seven-time Paralympian and three-time gold medallist. Tsuchida handed the torch on to a group of Japanese youth before it was then given to Osaka herself.