By Nobuaki Ono / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterMore than four years before the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, a team established by the central government, the Tokyo metropolitan government and the Tokyo organizing committee is discussing how to set up the Olympic cauldron at the Games’ main venue.
Chaired by Toshiaki Endo, minister in charge of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, the working team was launched in March to discuss where to place the Olympic cauldron in the new National Stadium.
The team will first roughly decide where the cauldron will be set up and from where its flame will be lit.
Japan will be put to the test in its hosting of the 2020 Games, and the placement of the cauldron — the symbol of the Olympic and Paralympic Games — will be key to setting the mood for the event.
It is rare to start such discussions more than four years before the Games open.
Lighting the Olympic flame is the most dramatic part of the opening ceremony, and in this connection, Endo said, “Some element of surprise is necessary.” How the Olympic flame will be lit is not usually disclosed.
According to the Cabinet Secretariat, neither of the two candidate designs of the new National Stadium — Plans A and B — addressed the issue of where the cauldron will be placed. Plan A was chosen.
When the applicants submitted their proposed designs, they were not required to include the cauldron’s location. This is why plans A and B did not include the location.
The organizing committee had planned to discuss the placement of the cauldron while it considered how to stage the opening ceremony.
But the basic design of the main venue is scheduled to be completed in May, and if the basic design has to be subsequently altered for the Olympic cauldron, construction may be delayed. Therefore, it was decided that the placement of the cauldron and the place from which the Olympic flame will be lit should be roughly concluded soon.
The working team is aiming for a decision that will not change the basic design of the new National Stadium, the total construction cost and the length of the construction work.
International Olympic Committee guidelines call for the cauldron to be located so it can be seen by all spectators in the main venue. The guidelines also say that because members of the public are highly interested in the cauldron, it should be placed in a way that the Olympic flame can been seen from outside the stadium during the period of the events.
However, for the London Games, the cauldron was placed in a corner of the stadium and could not be seen from outside. The IOC approved that location, and the guidelines are flexible on this point.
Another issue that must be settled is who will pay for the cauldron.
According to documents presented at the meeting of the working team, the government shouldered the cost in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. But the cost of the cauldron for the 1972 Sapporo Winter Games was assumed by the local rotary club, and that of the 1998 Nagano Winter Games was borne by Tokyo Gas Co., which was a sponsor of the Games.
Under a schedule presented by Endo, a staging director for the opening ceremony will be chosen about 2½ years before the opening of the Tokyo Games.
It is likely that details about the cauldron, such as which entity will set it up and how to share the cost, will be considered during the process of deciding details of the staging of the opening ceremony.
After the Games
Parts of the Olympic cauldron at the 2012 London Games were given to participating countries and territories after the events closed. One of them is displayed in the office of the secretariat of the Japanese Olympic Committee.
The copper, flower petal-shaped parts of the cauldron are inscribed with the names of the 204 participating countries and territories. Similar parts were given to participating countries and territories in the Paralympics.
At the entrance hall of the Japanese Paralympic Committee’s secretariat, the part on which “Japan” is inscribed is displayed as a memorial of the London Games.
In the opening ceremony of the London Games, flames shaped like flower petals merged in the air to form a single, larger flame. The image symbolized the Olympic spirit, representing the hope that people of all races and ethnic groups will unite to build a peaceful world.
According to the Cabinet Secretariat, the cauldron of the 2000 Sydney Games has been reused as a fountain in a park named after Cathy Freeman, an indigenous Australian athlete who lit the Olympic flame.
The cauldron of the 2004 Athens Games remains in the stadium, and the cauldron of the 2008 Beijing Games is displayed in a plaza near the main stadium, which was nicknamed the Bird’s Nest.
How host countries use the cauldrons after the Games differs widely, reflecting the ways of thinking of each country. How can the 2020 cauldron be utilized in a way that will be welcomed by the Japanese people?Speech