Wednesday, May 25

Who will light the cauldron for the Tokyo 2020 Games?

Vanderlei de Lima lights the cauldron in Rio 2016.

Vanderlei de Lima lights the cauldron in Rio 2016.

With one day remaining until the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, a question remains in the air: Who will light the cauldron? The mystery won’t be solved until the last moment, but there are various speculations.

Although the organizers have asked that there be no leaks, it is considered that the person in charge of lighting the cauldron may be someone linked to the 2011 natural disaster in the northeast of the country, a athlete woman to allay discontent over parity, or a technology initiative to illustrate Japan’s potential.

The Miracle Games

When Tokyo hosted its first Olympic Games, those of 1964, a young 19-year-old Yoshinori Sakai starred in the emotional moment of lighting the cauldron with the Olympic flame after the relay. Sakai traveled the final meters of the route carrying not only the torch in his hand, but also being a bulwark of hope, peace and symbolizing the Japan’s miraculous recovery from misery just two decades after the end of World War II.

A native of Hiroshima, Sakai was chosen then, among other factors, for his birth: August 6, 1945, the day the atomic bomb was dropped over the western city of Japan. The lighting of the cauldron was an iconic act that would mark a new stage in Japanese history and the country’s international image.

The Reconstruction Games

The local media speculate with the possibility that something similar will happen on this occasion and that, since then the lighting of the cauldron becomes a symbol of another recovery, in this case that of the natural and nuclear disaster of March 2011.

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Since Tokyo was chosen as the host city in 2013 and before the covid-19 clouded everything, with an unprecedented postponement and dotting every millimeter of the organization of the renamed ‘Pandemic Games‘, the objective was for the event to serve as a showcase for the reconstruction of northeastern Japan.

The Tokyo Games were promoted until not so long ago as ‘the Reconstruction Games’ and therefore there is speculation that the person chosen to light the Olympic cauldron on the 23rd is speculated may be a survivor or one of those displaced by the tsunami or Fukushima nuclear crisis. Not surprisingly, when the torch relay began at the end of last March, the month of the tragedy, it left the J-Village complex, used as an operations center to manage the atomic crisis.

Technological deployment

The only clear declaration of intent regarding the lighting of the cauldron was made by Cartivator, a group made up of leading engineers from the Asian country, back in 2017, when they showed their desire that his SkyDrive flying vehicle was in charge of lighting the cauldron at the now imminent opening ceremony.

The company received a significant investment from one of the competition’s main sponsors, the vehicle manufacturer Toyota, whose stance towards the Games has gradually cooled after the costly postponement, the veto of the spectators and the ambiguous expectation among the Japanese. The automotive giant has announced that it will not broadcast television ads about the Olympic Games in the Japanese archipelago (even if it were) as it is considered “inappropriate”, given the situation of the covid in Japan, and that no high-level executive, including its president, will attend to the opening ceremony on Friday.

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He has been joined by other names such as Panasonic, Fujitsu or NTT, who seek to dissociate themselves as much as possible from the negative publicity around the Games, which part of the Japanese public opinion sees out of place in the midst of the health crisis and the obstacles encountered by the campaign vaccination of covid-19 in Japan.

These absences among the sponsors, who together with members of the Olympic family, competitors and other people involved in the Games will be the only ones present at the inauguration, will further limit the presence of the public in a bittersweet kick-off for athletes and fans. According to official figures provided by the organization, approximately 950 people will attend the ceremony, of which only 150 will be representing Japanese.

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