Japanese swimmer Rikako Ikee, who is battling back from leukaemia, provided a glimmer of hope for embattled Tokyo Olympics organisers during a sombre yet poignant ceremony on Thursday.
The ceremony was used to mark one year to go until the rearranged 2020 Olympic Games.
The Olympics were due to begin on Friday with an extravagant opening ceremony in the National Stadium.
But the Games have instead been delayed until July 23, 2021 because of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
A subdued 15-minute ceremony took place in an empty and dark National Stadium, where footage was shown to highlight next year’s Games.
Ikee, who won six titles at the 2018 Asian Games and was considered a strong medal contender for the Olympics before her illness, stood under a spotlight dressed in all white.
It can be said she represented a figure of hope for Tokyo.
“Imagine the world a year from now,” she said while holding the Olympic flame in a lantern.
“How wonderful it will be to see the curtain raising on the Olympic and Paralympic Games. We are currently living in a world of ups and downs.
“I sincerely hope that the peace and calm of daily life returns as soon as possible.”
Various venues that will host Olympics events next year, including the newly-built Ariake Arena, were lit up in the Olympic colours to mark the occasion.
Last year, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach presided over a glitzy ceremony to mark the occasion in the Japanese capital.
He declared Tokyo then as the best prepared host city he had ever seen.
This time around the atmosphere was much more subdued and Thursday’s small ceremony is a sign of things to come in the lead-up to the Games next year.
The head of IOC’s Coordination Commission, John Coates, has said rearranging the Games meant focusing on the “must-haves” in a simplified event.
In response, Tokyo 2020 Chief Executive Toshiro Muto said over 200 simplification measures were under consideration.
Thursday’s landmark comes as the Japanese capital reported 366 new coronavirus cases, a new daily record, fuelling fears of a second round of infections.(Reuters/NAN)