On 9 January, the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games joined the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) and the Japanese Para-Sports Association's Japanese Paralympic Committee (JPC) in hosting a flag-welcoming ceremony at the annual Coming of Age Celebration (Seijin no Tsudoi) in Tokyo's Ota City, as part of the ongoing Tokyo 2020 Olympic Flag and Paralympic Flag Tour.
The ceremony was held at the Ota-City General Gymnasium, which rang with the excited voices of this year's newly come-of-age adults, all dressed up for the occasion, many of them reuniting with old friends. The ceremony was organised by a steering committee made up of eight volunteers from Ota City, themselves all newly minted adults. The extensive preparations that went into the event were evident in its many creative touches, including performances during the intermission, festival stalls and handmade paper fortunes, highlighting the enthusiasm with which the new adults were intent upon marking their special day.
During the ceremony, swimmer Mai Nakamura, who competed in the Atlanta 1996 Games and the Sydney 2000 Games, took to the stage as an ambassador to hand over the Olympic and Paralympic flags. Ms. Nakamura encouraged the new adults with a cheer, exhorting them with the words, Turning 20 is a significant milestone. Do your best as you move forward in your lives!
After receiving the flags from Ms. Nakamura, Ota City mayor Tadayoshi Matsubara waved them energetically and declared, The flags that Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike accepted in Rio in the falling rain have finally reached Ota City, after travelling through other areas in Tokyo and areas affected by the 3/11 disaster. In last year's Rio Games, three athletes from Ota City competed with great results. I hope you'll join me in working to ensure the Olympics and Paralympics are a success so that Ota City can live up to its commitment to support sports and promote good health.
After the ceremony, the city's new adults posed for commemorative photographs with the flags at a booth in the facility's sub-arena while holding paper boards on which they had written the various things they hope to accomplish by 2020.
A second flag-welcoming ceremony was held the same day at Hachioji Culture Hall, the venue for Hachioji City's Coming of Age Ceremony. Athlete Olympic swimmer Masami Tanaka, who competed at the Atlanta 1996 Games, Sydney 2000 Games and Athens 2004 Games, has connections to Hachioji, Tokyo, and served as the ambassador at that ceremony. The venue took on a particularly festive atmosphere as the gorgeously dressed participants in the ceremony held and waved multicoloured flags of the world's nations.
Welcome ceremonies and exhibitions will be held in each community as the Olympic and Paralympic flags continue their journey through Tokyo's 62 wards, cities, towns and villages. The flags will also be sent to the three prefectures in the Tohoku region that bore the brunt of the 3/11 disaster - Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima - as well as to other locations throughout Japan.