Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka was picked as the final torchbearer of the 2020 Games to deliver a message of “diversity and inclusion,” the executive producer of the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony said at a news conference Saturday.
Osaka, a four-time major champion, lit the Olympic cauldron to officially open the Tokyo 2020 Games on Friday night. Born in Osaka, Japan, the tennis star – who has a Haitian father and Japanese mother – moved to the United States at age 3.
“In the end we decided on her because she is a great athlete and she has been delivering a variety of messages, so we thought she was the best person to be the final torchbearer. It was a decision that the whole organizing committee came to,” Hioki Takayuki said.
Regarding whether the appearance of Osaka contributed to improving the image of the Games, Takayuki said: “It’s more about the absolute values that Naomi Osaka offers. That’s what we focus on. Of course, for the Games as a whole and also for Japan, she is a jewel, she is a treasure for us, so that is why we selected her.”
In a tweet early Saturday, Osaka said lighting the flame was “undoubtedly the greatest athletic achievement and honor I will ever have in my life.”