Every summer Olympics, athletes carry the Olympic torch from Athens to the host city, where the torch ignites the Olympic cauldron during the opening ceremony. Now, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics have unveiled the design of the new torch, and it’s a lovely ode to Japanese tradition, technology, and sustainability.
Thirty percent of the torch, by the prominent Japanese designer Tokujin Yoshioka, is composed of aluminum construction waste recovered from temporary housing built after the devastating 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. It was made using aluminum extrusion technology, which is also used to manufacture Japanese bullet trains.
The torch’s form is equally thoughtful. It takes the shape of a cherry blossom, perhaps the most famous flower in Japan. Elegant metal petals sweep up from the torch’s mast to culminate in a flower, out of which the flames will erupt.
“The design began after I drew cherry blossom emblems with children in [a] recovering area,” Yoshioka tells Fast Company via email. “The cherry blossoms they drew were all vibrant, as if [they] symbolize a scene where people are overcoming and restarting from the disaster. I aimed to convey their power to the world through my design.”
To date, the design for the Tokyo Olympics is better than anything we’ve seen in previous years. From its medals, which are made of 47 tons of recycled electronics, to its beautifully retro pictograms, Japan is showing the world that it takes design seriously.
Which makes Yoshioka a perfect choice for the Olympic torch. Yoshioka is one of Japan’s most influential designers, a “poet of materials,” who has made furniture look like clouds and phones resemble holograms. A Fast Company Most Creative Person in 2010, he has worked for companies like BMW, Swarovski, and Shiseido. He joins other prestigious designers in creating the Olympic torch for his country, including Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby, who designed the torch for the 2012 Olympics in London.