Naomi Osaka "the best person to be the final torchbearer," executive producer of opening ceremony says

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."

From CNN Sports's Jill Martin. July 23, 2021