Naomi Osaka lit the cauldron at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics on Friday. It marked the end of the flame's long journey from Greece, and officially marked the beginning of the Olympics delayed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Olympics are still dealing with COVID-19 issues as fans were not allowed to attend the ceremony.
According to the Associated Press, the identity of the person lighting the cauldron is kept a secret until the very last moment. Before Osaka lit the cauldron, baseball greats Sadaharu Oh, Shigeo Nagashima and Hideki Matsui took part in bringing the flame into the stadium. It was then passed to a doctor and nurse, Hiroko Oohash and Junko Kitagawa. A few more people carried the torch before it got to Osaka, who brought it to center stage. From there, Osaka ran up the stairs, lit the cauldron and it was followed by fireworks.
Naomi Osaka lights the Olympic cauldron 👏 #Tokyo2020July 23, 2021
Osaka, a four-time Grand Slam winner, will be competing in the Olympics, representing Japan. She was set to have her first tennis match on Saturday but it has been delayed. Osaka will be competing in her first match since she withdrew from the French Open in May after saying she would not be doing press conferences at the event, which drew backlash from organizers.
"I think now the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris," Osaka said in a lengthy statement at the time. "I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer.
"More important I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly. The truth is that I suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that. Anyone that knows me knows I'm introverted, and anyone that has seen me at tournaments will notice that I'm often wearing headphones as they help dulls my social anxiety." Osaka comes into the Olympics as the second-best player in the world.