WATCH: Naomi Osaka Lights Olympic Cauldron To Kick Off Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

by Jonathan Howard

The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games are finally here. The opening ceremony has commenced, the teams each marched out with their respective flags and team garb, and the torch has been lit. Naomi Osaka, a Japanese tennis star, lit the Olympic cauldron aflame to get Tokyo 2020 officially off the ground.

Osaka is possibly the most well-known Japanese athlete in the world currently. The tennis star is one of the top-3 players in the world and has quite the resume in her young career. In 2018-2019, Osaka became the first woman to win successive Grand Slam singles titles since Serena Williams in 2015. This is Osaka’s first Olympic games. The honor of lighting the Olympic cauldron is one reserved for a lucky few. Muhammad Ali lit the 1996 Atlanta Games cauldron. In 2012, the British had a number of people participate in the lighting.

Those familiar with Osaka will remember that she recently backed out of Wimbledon due to mental health concerns. That decision was discussed throughout sports media for days, and many fellow tennis players and athletes came out in support of Osaka’s decision.

More recently, Osaka has been featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition. She is one of the many cover models for the long-running edition of the magazine. Osaka first made big waves when she took down Serena Williams in 2018 at the US Open finals. She became the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam singles title. Since then Osaka has made headlines with her activism, relationship with rapper YBN Cordae and of course her amazing talents in tennis.

Naomi Osaka Lights Olympic Cauldron

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony was different from years past. While Naomi Osaka climbed the stairs to the cauldron, there were no crowds of fans screaming and cheering. In fact, there were no fans at all. The majority of the Olympic Games will be held without the presence of fans. Osaka lit the cauldron in front of a crowd of her fellow Olympians, giving the entire ceremony a different feel.

The Tokyo Games have been a long time coming. With the COVID-19 pandemic postponing the original date for the Olympics last year, the 2020 Tokyo Games will take place in 2021 (That will be on Jeopardy! one day). There are still concerns, hence why there are no fans, that the COVID issue in Japan isn’t in a place to host the Games at all. Then there are some smaller concerns.

Among the smaller concerns for Olympic organizers includes roaming bears near Olympic competition locations. Those issues have not really turned into anything serious. As for the opening ceremony, it was much of the same usual pomp and circumstance. Team USA was led out by flag bearers Sue Bird and Eddy Alvarez. Each nation was encouraged to choose a male and female flag bearer for the Games this year.

With Naomi Osaka’s long list of accomplishments both on and off the court, it makes sense why organizers would want the 23-year old to represent their nation at that moment. She joins a long line of distinguished athletes and others who have lit the cauldron aflame.