Rome News-Tribune

Japanese tennis star Osaka lights flame to open games

- Field Level Media

Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka lit the Olympic cauldron Friday, signifying the opening of the delayed and controvers­ial Tokyo Games.

Osaka was the final person to touch the torch, which has been traveling through Japan since March 25.

Olympic champions Nomura Tadahiro (judo) and Yoshida Saori (wrestling) carried the torch into Japan National Stadium near the end of the opening ceremony and passed it to Japanese baseball icons Hideki Matsui, Shigeo Nagashima and Sadaharu Oh. From there, a pair of first responders took the flame, and passed it to seven-time Paralympia­n and three-time gold medalist Wakako Tsuchida.

A group of Japanese students carried the torch before passing it off to Osaka, the four-time Grand Slam winner who is making her Olympic debut. The 23-year-old climbed the stage replicatin­g Mt. Fuji to light the cauldron.

The torch lighting capped a subdued opening ceremony that took place against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, which delayed the 2020 Tokyo Olympics by one year. The virus is on the uptick in Tokyo, leaving most events to be contended before no spectators in empty venues designed to host thousands of

internatio­nal spectators.

As a result, the opening ceremony accommodat­ed only about 950 VIP spectators and journalist­s. First lady Jill Biden was in attendance, leading the American delegation.

Osaka’s role in the ceremony was significan­t, reserved for the most revered people and athletes in a nation. Gold medalists Muhammad Ali, Rafer Johnson and the 1980 Miracle on Ice team have held the honor in Olympics held on American soil, while Wayne Gretzky was called upon in 2010 in

the Vancouver Winter Games.

As the spectacle went on inside the stadium, protesters took to the streets of Tokyo to protest the games being held amid surging cases of the coronaviru­s in Japan. They blamed the Tokyo 2020 planners and the Internatio­nal Olympic Committee for bringing delegation­s from across the globe into Japan, risking further spread.

On Thursday, Tokyo reported COVID-19 cases at the highest level since January.

 ?? USA Today Sports - Geoff Burke ?? Basketball star Sue Bird (left) and baseball player Eddy Alvarez jointly carry the American flag during the parade of athletes.
USA Today Sports - Geoff Burke Basketball star Sue Bird (left) and baseball player Eddy Alvarez jointly carry the American flag during the parade of athletes.
 ?? USA Today Sports - Rob Schumacher ?? Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka was given the honor of lighting the cauldron during Friday’s opening ceremony.
USA Today Sports - Rob Schumacher Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka was given the honor of lighting the cauldron during Friday’s opening ceremony.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States