TOKYO: The torch relay for the postponed Tokyo Olympics began its 121-day trip across Japan on Thursday, with the opening ceremony set for July 23 in Tokyo.
Due to concerns about the coronavirus, which forced the historic postponement of the 2020 Games a year ago, spectators were barred from the departure ceremony and the first leg.
However, organisers hope that the 121-day relay, which will crisscross Japan and involve 10,000 runners, will generate excitement and enthusiasm as concerns about the Games’ safety continue.
Seiko Hashimoto, the president of Tokyo 2020, described the flame as “a ray of light at the end of the darkness.”
“This little flame never lost hope, and it waited for this day like a cherry blossom bud just about to bloom,” she said at a ceremony at Fukushima’s J-Village Sports Complex, which served as the former operations base for the 2011 nuclear disaster.
Azusa Iwashimizu, a member of Japan’s World Cup-winning women’s football team in 2011, was the first to bear the rose-gold, cherry blossom-shaped torch, which was accompanied by former teammates.
Iwashimizu then passed the flame to the next runner, Fukushima High School student Asato Owada, who was dressed in the same white tracksuit with a red diagonal stripe as the torchbearer.
The second section of the relay was watched by a few spectators wearing the mandatory masks, but clicking cameras were the loudest sound. To avoid virus infections, cheering and large crowds are prohibited at the relay.
The flame will travel through all 47 prefectures of Japan, passing by famous landmarks such as Mount Fuji and the Hiroshima City Peace Memorial Park.
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