Tokyo 2020 - Naomi Osaka lights Olympic cauldron – plus 5 more highlights from Opening Ceremony as Games begin
Friday’s Opening Ceremony marked the official start of Tokyo 2020. After thousands of athletes paraded around the National Stadium in Tokyo, the honour of carrying the Olympic flame and lighting the cauldron went to Naomi Osaka, the 23-year-old four-time Grand Slam champion who will be going for tennis gold in Japan. We also pick out five more standout moments.
Watch powerful moment Osaka lights Olympic flame in Tokyo
Four-time tennis Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka lit the Olympic cauldron at Tokyo 2020 as the Opening Ceremony marked the official start of the summer Games.
After a year-long delay, and months of uncertainty regarding whether the Games would even go ahead amid the coronavirus pandemic, Friday’s ceremony signified that the 32nd Olympics – and fourth to be held in Japan – were finally under way.
Though a notable amount of athletes were absent, thousands still headed for the National Stadium, with each nation present having two flag bearers as they made their way around the designated route.
There were no spectators present inside the stadium, which had staged the 1964 Summer Olympics but was then redeveloped ahead of this year’s Games, although VIPs included First Lady Jill Biden and the Emperor or Japan, Naruhito.
Fireworks had unveiled the Olympic rings in style, and once the athletes had been paraded around, the dazzling display continued with a stunning drone show above the stadium.
There was then a rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine” – featuring John Legend – and after speeches from Hashimoto Seiko, president of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee, and IOC president Thomas Bach, the Japanese Emperor declared the Games open.
After the Olympic flag was raised and anthem played out, the focus then switched to who would have the honour of lighting the cauldron. Muhammad Ali famously lit the cauldron at Atlanta 1996, and at Sydney 2000 Cathy Freeman did so before becoming the first athlete to win a gold medal at the same Games. Meanwhile, a host of British Olympians nominated seven teenage sporting prospects to light the cauldron at London 2012.
Naomi Osaka of Team Japan lights the Olympic cauldron with the Olympic torch during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on July 23
Image credit: Getty Images
This time around, that duty fell on Osaka, and after the flame was passed around the stadium she scaled the stairs to light the cauldron and cap off a memorable ceremony.
The 23-year-old's involvement had been rumoured after her opening singles match was removed from the order of play. She had been scheduled to play China's No. 52 seed Zheng Saisai in the first match on centre court on Saturday, the first day of tennis at Tokyo 2020, but she could now play on Sunday instead.
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5 Opening Ceremony highlights
Fireworks and rings
The Olympic rings are unveiled with wonderful fireworks in Tokyo.
'That's pretty special!' - Olympic rings unveiled with fireworks in Tokyo
The Dominican dancers
The two Dominican Republic flag bearers proved a highlight of the ceremony with a wonderful dance as they entered the stadium.
Dominican Republic flag bearers steal the show with dance at Opening Ceremony
Topless Tongan returns!
Oiled-up icon Pita Taufatofua made his grand entrance with the Tonga flag – the third time IN A ROW he has been the flag bearer.
Oiled-up icon Pita Taufatofua makes grand entrance in Opening Ceremony
Shadow boxing Brit
Team GB entered the stadium in Tokyo for the Opening Ceremony, featuring some entertaining shadow boxing from Frazer Clarke.
'This tops it all' - Team GB enter Opening Ceremony, feat. shadow boxing
Ireland showed real class by bowing on their entrance to the stadium during the Opening Ceremony.
Ireland show class by bowing on entrance at Opening Ceremony