All about the Flame Lighting and Torch Handover ceremonies

The Flame Lighting Ceremony of the Olympic Flame for the XXXII Summer Olympic Games Tokyo 2020
The Flame Lighting Ceremony of the Olympic Flame for the XXXII Summer Olympic Games "Tokyo 2020"

The Olympic flame will be lit on 12 March 2020 near the Temple of Hera at the sacred site of Ancient Olympia, Greece, where the Olympic Games of Antiquity took place. Women dressed in ancient attire representing priestesses will use a parabolic mirror to collect the rays of the sun to kindle the flame, which is then handed over to the first torchbearer, Olympic gold medallist Anna Korakaki. The flame will then travel around Greece.

Noguchi Mizuki, the winner of the women’s marathon race at the Olympic Games Athens 2004, will represent the host country as the second torchbearer. In total, about 10,000 torchbearers will take part in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay.

Noguchi Mizuki, the second torchbearer

Noguchi Mizuki
Noguchi Mizuki
©Iwatani corporation Track & Field Team

Noguchi Mizuki has been chosen as the second torchbearer. “I am very grateful to be a torchbearer in Greece, which is a special place to me,” said the Olympic champion from Athens 2004. “I am also happy and thankful for this opportunity given to me. It has been 16 years since I first visited Greece for the Olympic Games in 2004 in Athens. Appreciating the value of the Olympic Torch Relay, I will pass the flame on with great memories from Athens 2004 and hope for the coming Olympic Games Tokyo 2020,” continued Noguchi.

Noguchi had switched from half marathon to marathon and won the 2002 Nagoya International Women’s Marathon for her first race. Winning the gold medal in the women’s marathon in Athens in 2004, she then set the Asian and Japanese women’s record at the 2005 Berlin Marathon. Since her retirement in 2016, she has helped train a Japanese corporate track and field team as an adviser and also works as a marathon commentator.

The Olympic Torch Handover Ceremony

The flame lit at the Temple of Hera first goes on a one-week Olympic Torch Relay across Greece. An Olympic Torch Handover Ceremony will take place on 19 March 2020 at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, where the National Olympic Committee of Greece will hand over the Olympic torch to the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The two torchbearers who will participate in the Torch Relay before the Handover Ceremony have been selected from Japan, and the torch will then be handed over to the final torchbearer in Greece. The two torchbearers representing Japan will be Nomura Tadahiro and Yoshida Saori, who have each won three gold medals in the men’s judo 60kg and in the women’s freestyle wrestling 55kg respectively.

Nomura and Yoshida, torchbearers before the Handover Ceremony

“I am very honoured to run as a torchbearer in Greece where the origin of the Olympic Games lies. I will run and pass the flame with the pride of an Olympian and with passion for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games,” said Nomura, gold medallist in the men’s judo 60kg at Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004. Nomura was the first judo athlete and the first Asian athlete in any sport to win Olympic gold at three consecutive Games. After his retirement, Nomura has been devoted to promoting judo both at home and abroad. He was also a member of the selection panel of the Tokyo 2020 Games medal design competition.

Yoshida started wrestling training at the age of three at the Ichishi junior wrestling club opened at home and run by her father, Eikatsu. She claimed 13 consecutive world titles between 2002 and 2015 and won three gold medals at the Olympic Games: Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012, followed by a silver medal at Rio 2016. In January 2019, she announced her retirement after a career spanning 33 years.

The Olympic Games Athens 2004 were my first Olympic Games.

It is my great pleasure to run in such a memorable and sacred place, and bring the flame lit in Greece to Japan.

Exile Hero to direct a performance at the Handover Ceremony

During the Handover Ceremony, there will be a cultural performance by Greece and by the host country, before the final torchbearer makes an appearance. Exile Hiro will direct the performance given by Tokyo 2020.

Exile Hiro
Exile Hiro
©LDH JAPAN

Hiro debuted as a member of Japanese music group ZOO in 1990. In 1999, he founded J Soul Brothers, which later changed its name to EXILE. As both a performer and the leader of the group, he led EXILE to become a national sensation. Hiro stepped down from performing in 2013. In March 2015, he became a member of the Culture and Education Commission of the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“I am extremely honoured and humbled to have been chosen as the director for the Olympic Torch Handover Ceremony Tokyo 2020 Culture Part in Athens,” he said. “My main goal is to have the kids, who are Japan’s hope for the future, express the concept for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay: “Hope Lights Our Way”.

“I would like for the world to see the children’s spirited performance, which will further build on the momentum leading up to Tokyo 2020, but most of all, I will give it my all to make sure that the children experience something that they can take with them for the rest of their lives, and for it to be an experience that will inspire them to build a bright future together,” said Hiro.

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