Lighting the Flame (Literally)

This last Thursday I woke up at 5:15 in the morning to watch the lighting of the Olympic flame. Unlike the lighting in 2017 for the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics, the day was bright, sunny, and absolutely beautiful. (I don't know if the Olympic Channel meant to do this, but I could especially hear the birds singing.)

Here is a live blog of me watching it. If you want to watch it yourself, you can watch it here:

(The most relevant parts of the ceremony are at 53:00 and 1:10:00, if you are short on time. But I would try to watch all of it if you can!)

5:20 a.m. The small delegation of people invited for this event make their way to the grounds. I first noticed IOC President Thomas Bach, and he's looking pretty cheerful! There's also a contingent of the Presidential guard in their formal garb.

5:22 a.m. I am glad there is live commentary - the OBS does a nice job of explaining things without being annoying. (A reason I'm not watching NBC's stream.) She let us know that a lot of the ceremony has been scaled back because of the limited number of people there. There was going to be a lot of children involvement, but no children are present.

5:25 a.m. This is where my Greek heritage shines. "Hey! More people whose last names end in 's'!" I'm going to get to Greece someday. (Maybe my next major trip?)

5:27 a.m. Time to hear the Olympic anthem and see the Olympic flag raised! I can't help it - it makes me cry happy tears. Just thinking that I am watching this live makes me very gleeful. Usually I'm watching replays of past Olympics - this is happening now!! And I don't even care that they got recording of a men's choir to sing it.

5:30 a.m. Japan's turn! Quite a short anthem, in comparison. Apparently it's one of the oldest anthems in the world.

5:32 a.m. And finally, Greece. It has a very similar ring to the Olympic anthem - I'm pretty sure that wasn't a coincidence.

5:33 a.m. Although the two official languages of the Olympics are French and English, I am not sure that I'm hearing French by the Master of Ceremonies. It is quite possible that it's just Greek and English. I'm sorry - my language skills are lacking. You let me know!

5:34 a.m. Thanks to the OBS commentator, she's translating the Greek words of the first speaker. And look! Captions!!! What a fantastic idea! I wish they'd do captions for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. If they have the speeches beforehand, honestly there's no excuse.

5:39 a.m. After hearing from the mayor of Olympia, now we hear from the Japanese head organizer of their Olympic Committee. I like that each is speaking in their own language and there are captions. I can't get over that! Why has it taken so long to stick these on the bottom of the video?!

5:41 a.m. The organizer actually mentions the coronavirus - wow. He says the Organizing Committee will work closely with the IOC and the city of Tokyo to put on the Games.

5:44 a.m. He mentioned the cauldron! Hydrogen will be used to fuel it, which burns more cleanly. And that hydrogen will be produced in Fukushima Prefecture - where the earthquake and tsunami in 2011 hit the hardest. Another way that Japan is working to achieve sustainability.

5:48 a.m. The theme of the Tokyo Relay is "Hope Lights Our Way." I'm just hopeful because this lighting and relay is still taking place!

5:48 a.m. Bach's turn! He chooses to speak in English. We wouldn't have objected to German, Bach. But oh well!

5:49 a.m. Bach also gives credit to the sports organizers around the world who are cancelling or limiting audiences for their sporting events. He also reiterates that the Olympics will go on as planned. (Remember - things are being cancelled for March. The Olympics are in JULY.)

5:53 a.m. We hear of the 1964 Games, when Tokyo was the first Asian city to host the Olympics, and how it introduced hope to the people after so much war and depression.

5:56 a.m. He finishes his speech by saying that the unity of the Olympics helps to combat those that wish to divide the world. He gives good speeches!

5:57 a.m. The head of the Greek Organizing Committee also speaks in English and gives credit to the streaming services for being able to broadcast this special event all over the world. (For free!) Let's point that out: streaming services are incredibly important during times like this. I hope streaming providers don't try to gouge people stuck at home by raising prices. Maybe offer streaming for free for the next month?

5:58 a.m. He also mentions that the first relay participant will be a woman - for the first time ever. (I can't believe it's been this long. Kinda crazy.)

5:59 a.m. The Europeans get such joy from speaking Japanese phrases. I kinda love it.

6:00 a.m. Time to go to the temple of Hera! This is the first time I've watched this ceremony in its entirety, so I'm not used to all of this. I didn't realize they moved around!

6:01 a.m. I hate the origins of the torch relay (1936), but I love what it has become. The Olympics are of Greek origin, and this kind of ceremony reminds people of that fact, even though the actual Olympic Games don't really relate directly to it.

6:02 a.m. Men in simple dress pose in the classic sport poses.

6:02 a.m. Time for the priestesses! (Are they priestesses full-time?)

6:03 a.m. Just got explained by the OBS commentator that each ceremony for the flame lighting is different, and the choreography is different. I did not know that!

6:04 a.m. We are also reminded that the flame lighting is not original to the ancient Olympics; though they always had a flame burning during the Games, this choreography and ceremony is completely contemporary (though it hearkens back to ancient times).

6:09 a.m. THE FLAME IS LIT!!!

6:09 a.m. I just noticed that the original torch that lights the flame from the rays of the sun is not the Tokyo torch. Apparently this one stays in Greece and is always used for the lighting.

6:10 a.m. The torch lights up a bowl, and that bowl will go to the stadium to light the first Tokyo 2020 torch!!!! (That original torch flame will go to the temple of Hera.)

6:12 a.m. While the torch may be old, that drum they're using looks like it was purchased in a music store yesterday.

6:16 a.m. Ooh, an original song!

6:21 a.m. More dancing. I do like how the song and the dancing for this year helps to connect Greece and Japan.

6:24 a.m. Credit where credit is due: all that dancing was done on a hill. Props!

6:25 a.m. Isn't that flame bowl hot?

6:26 a.m. The second Greek torch is lit, and then 2016 Olympic gold medalist Anna Korakaki comes with the TOKYO TORCH IT'S SO PRETTY!!!!!!!!

6:27 a.m. The flame will travel in Greece for a week and then be handed over to Japan for their relay around the country.

6:30 a.m. Man, Korakaki really has a distance to run! Not only the ancient track, but up a hill all the way to the monument for Coubertin. (Fun fact: his heart is in that momument. Not joking - his actual heart is in that monument.)

6:32 a.m. Gotta love those Greek security members who get to jog alongside the torchbearer.

6:33 a.m. Korakaki kneels at the monument. Very neat.

6:34 a.m. The second torchbearer is Noguchi Mizuki, the first Japanese to bear the torch in this relay!

And so it begins!

Weekly Cauldron Check

Is the cauldron lit????

...No. But the flame is!

I'm Claire Nat and you're reading Light The CauldronFollow me on Twitter and Facebook @CauldronLight and read my past Olympic articles! Look back on previous posts to hear about my trips to the US Curling National Championships, the US Figure Skating Championships, and my planning for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics!


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