The Olympic Torch Relay has begun in Japan

The 121 day long torch relay for the postponed 2020 Tokyo Olympics finally began in Japan last week.

Delayed due to the pandemic, this summer’s Olympic Games arrive in a sea of uncertainty. No international fans are permitted at the Games, and cheering at the torch relay is discouraged due to potential Covid-19 spread. 

Spectators were barred from this year’s torch launch ceremony in Fukushima, where the hopeful flaming torch began its journey last week. 

Beginning in the J-Village national football training facility in Naraha, Fukushima, the relay began as the initial torchbearers took off. Each member of the relay carried the torch, detailed with cherry blossoms, over a distance of about 200 metres.

The Nadeshiko Japan women’s football team, who won the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, were the first torchbearers, passing the torch over to a 16-year-old Fukushima native, Owada Asato. 

The torch now journeys onwards across the host nation, visiting 859 municipalities en route to its final destination: the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo.

This hope-bearing torch is to be carried with ceremonious care by 10,000 runners across all of Japan’s 47 prefectures before arriving in Tokyo on 23 July this year. Then the lighting of the Olympic cauldron will officially open the Games.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach remarked that the opening of the relay this year was a great feat: 

The world watched with great enthusiasm how the Olympic flame began its journey around Japan. Congratulations to the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and the Japanese people for this achievement.

Inspired by the Olympic values of peace and solidarity, the Olympic Torch Relay will carry Tokyo 2020’s message, ‘hope lights our way’, across Japan and the world

It will also acknowledge the challenges faced by society since last year, highlighting the importance of unity and solidarity within humankind, showing that we can only become stronger – together.”

The Olympic flame first arrived in Japan last year on 20 March 2020 at Matsushima Airbase in Miyagi, just as the pandemic began to hit the western world. The flame had been lit in  ancient Olympia in Greece and carried carefully across international borders to beautiful Japan.

While the Games were delayed last year, the Olympic flame had already arrived, and was on display at the new Olympic Museum in Tokyo, where it received many visitors before setting off on the relay this year.

Seiko Hashimoto, head of the Olympic Organising Committee stated that the Olympic flame’s journey represents hope around the world:

“For the past year, as the entire world went through a difficult period, the Olympic flame was kept alive quietly but powerfully,” she said at the opening ceremony, 

“The small flame did not lose hope, and just like the cherry blossom buds that are ready to bloom, it was waiting for this day.”

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Emma Monaghan

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