2020 Tokyo Olympics: The Emotional Meaning Behind the Flower Bouquets Awarded to Athletes

by Madison Miller

A trip to the Olympics is a lifelong goal for nearly every professional athlete.

Once you’ve made it, likely it’s nothing short of awe-worthy and emotional every step of the way.

From medal ceremonies to opening ceremonies to heartfelt messages back home, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics has been nothing short of pure and emotional. This year, spectators were not allowed at the Games.

This is obviously due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that continues to affect countries around the world. In addition to a medal, athletes who make it to the coveted podium are also given a bouquet of flowers.

According to Today, each of the bouquets was grown in the northeastern Japanese areas that were devastated when the 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and the meltdown of three nuclear reactors struck. In its wake were death and devastation.

Photo by: Al Bello/Getty Images

Meaning Behind Bouquets at Olympics

There were over 18,000 people that died in Iwate, Fukushima, and Miyagi. The bouquets are meant to send a message of togetherness and thankfulness to other countries.

“The bouquet is very vibrant in color and I’m glad that it uses flowers from all three prefectures, not just one. The flowers symbolize gratitude to the people from overseas who helped us with reconstruction,” Yukari Shimizu said to Kyodo News. She helps grows the flowers in a Fukushima once off-limits from radiation.

The bouquet features three different flowers — sunflowers, gentians, and eustomas. There is also a plush Miraitowa, which is the mascot of the Olympics this year. Perhaps the most touching of all the flowers featured are the sunflowers.

Natives in a part of Miyagi planted sunflowers on the same hill in which their children were forced to seek refuge from the dangerous tsunami 10 years ago. Every year it is now a tradition to deck this hill out with vibrant yellow sunflowers.

There were 5,000 bouquets made for the Olympic and Paralympic Games created by the Nippon Flower Council.

After a long year for people all over the globe, the Olympics have come to represent something long sought after — closeness and togetherness. The flowers and the Games in general symbolize the ability to overcome and persevere.

“I want the flowers to send a message that it is possible to overcome hardships, both in sports and in life,” Shimizu said.

Shimizu and her nonprofit, Jin, planted more than 15,000 seedlings of the eustoma for the Games.

Heartwarming Moment at Games

There’s been no shortage of emotional moments at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. One of which was when two high jumpers decided to share the gold medal.

One was Qatar’s Mutaz-Essa Barshim and the other was Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi. The two tied for gold with an astounding 2.37-meter high jump. They could have either gone into a jump-off where they would each take turns until someone beat that initial jump.

Barshim asked if they could share the gold and officials said yes.

In a beautiful moment, the two athletes embraced excitedly and ran around the stadium in a fit of excitement.

“He is one of my best friends, not only on the track but outside the track. We work together. This is a dream come true. It is the true spirit, the sportsman spirit, and we are here delivering this message,” Barshim said to reporters, according to Reuters.