Olympic torch relay begins in Fukushima, counting down to delayed Tokyo Games
The Tokyo Olympics torch relay kicked off Thursday, a year late and without spectators, heralding a major step towards the start of the coronavirus-delayed Games on July 23.
Speaking at the launch ceremony, Tokyo 2020 chief Seiko Hashimoto said she hoped the Olympic flame would serve 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 added.
The nationwide relay, like the Olympics themselves, will be vastly different from previous editions, with spectators banned from cheering and kept away from the launch and first leg over coronavirus concerns.
Fans will be able to line the route and clap as the flame traverses the country, borne by 10,000 runners and passing through all 47 prefectures before arriving at Tokyo’s National Stadium for the July 23 opening ceremony.
But parts of the relay could be suspended if too many spectators gather in one place, and masks are mandatory for onlookers.
Organisers were making final preparations for the relay last year when the coronavirus prompted the historic decision to postpone the Games, as sport around the world ground to a halt.
With overseas spectators barred from the Games and limits likely on domestic fans, the relay is seen as a vital opportunity to build enthusiasm.
“The torch relay is intended to communicate that the Olympic Games will take place,” Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto told reporters this week.
“It makes people feel that the Games are about to start—that’s the nature of the torch relay.”…..read more