TOKYO >> When Olympic medalists step up to the podium, each is presented a victory bouquet of flowers grown in three prefectures worst-hit by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.
According to the Tokyo Organizing Committee, victory bouquets had been dropped from recent programs; at the 2016 Rio Olympics and the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games, flowers wilted before they could be presented.
After Tokyo won its bid for the 2020 Olympics, however, domestic growers pushed to revive the practice with high- quality Japanese flowers. They established a temperature- control system for shipping flowers to the Olympic venues.
Lisianthus from Fukushima prefecture, sunflowers from Miyagi prefecture and gentians from Iwate prefecture make up the bouquets.
The flowers are meant to convey a message of welcome from the growers.
“I grew them with gratitude for the people all over the world who supported us when we were suffering after the earthquake,” said one farmer. “I’m full of emotion to see the bouquets next to the players’ smiles.”
Heat-tolerant varieties are also used to welcome athletes at competition venues.
At the 1964 Tokyo Games, which were held in October, producers researched and cultivated flowers suitable for autumn, and the venues were decorated with chrysanthemums.
This time a project team sought out heat-tolerant flowers and found 236 that were suitable for summer. Those were planted in 28 metropolitan parks.
Salvias, commonly known as sage, and petunias are blooming in blue and pink under the blazing sun near the Olympic cauldron in the Tokyo waterfront area. But under Tokyo’s state of emergency, people are discouraged from visiting the site.
“It’s such a pity they can’t be seen by many people amid the coronavirus pandemic, but I hope photos and videos convey their beauty,” said Hideki Hayakashi, a member of the project team.