The rose-gold, cherry blossom-formed Olympic torch was lit on the J-Village sports activities complicated in Fukushima, which served as a base for operations responding to the 2011 nuclear catastrophe.
Speaking on the launch ceremony, Tokyo 2020 chief Seiko Hashimoto mentioned she hoped the Olympic flame would function “a ray of light at the end of the darkness”.
The first kiss of the #Tokyo2020 Olympic torch on Japanese soil! 🇯🇵 🔥#OlympicTorchRelay #HopeLightsOurWay
— #Tokyo2020 (@Tokyo2020) 1616633924000
“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, just like the Olympics themselves, will probably be vastly completely different from earlier editions, with spectators banned from cheering and evaded the launch and first leg over coronavirus issues.
And we’re beneath manner!#HopeLightsOurWay #OlympicTorchRelay https://t.co/VOHGeTn64r
— #Tokyo2020 (@Tokyo2020) 1616634289000
Fans will be capable to line the route and clap because the flame traverses the nation, borne by 10,000 runners and passing by way of all 47 prefectures earlier than arriving at Tokyo’s National Stadium for the July 23 opening ceremony.
But components of the relay might be suspended if too many spectators collect in a single place, and masks are necessary for onlookers.
The Flame of Hope 🇯🇵🔥Japanese footballer Iwashimizu Azusa, 2011 @FIFAWWC winner and #London2012 silver medalist,… https://t.co/jgMcsIPOjN
— #Tokyo2020 (@Tokyo2020) 1616633716000
Organisers had been making ultimate preparations for the relay final year when the coronavirus prompted the historic choice to postpone the Games, as sport around the globe floor to a halt.
A year on, the pandemic continues to be in full swing regardless of vaccine rollouts, and organisers are battling public scepticism in Japan about holding the Olympics.
The Olympic flame continues to gentle up the world from Japan! 🇯🇵✨The cauldron is already lit for the beginning of the… https://t.co/lvQ9kxHAMB
— #Tokyo2020 (@Tokyo2020) 1616632616000
With abroad spectators barred from the Games and limits doubtless on home followers, the relay is seen as an important alternative to construct enthusiasm.
“The torch relay is intended to communicate that the Olympic Games will take place,” Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto advised reporters this week.
“It makes people feel that the Games are about to start — that’s the nature of the torch relay.”
The relay launch will put the highlight again on the area affected by the 2011 quake, tsunami and nuclear catastrophe.
The Games had been initially billed because the “Recovery Olympics”, showcasing reconstruction within the northeastern area of Tohoku that was devastated by the quake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown a decade in the past.
The pandemic has overshadowed that message, however Fukushima’s torchbearers hope the relay will nonetheless shine a optimistic gentle on the realm.
“From afar, Fukushima might look like a place where time has stood still,” Hanae Nojiri, a TV reporter who will probably be one of the torchbearers, advised AFP earlier than the relay.
“But when people see the spectators lining the roads and the passion of the runners, I think they’ll update their image of the place.”
The relay will cross by way of some cities that stay solely partially open to the general public, as decontamination continues in radiation-affected areas.
And some residents are ambivalent in regards to the Olympics.
“It’s annoying if we’re going to be used for some kind of propaganda” for the Games, Yoshiaki Suda, mayor of Onagawa city in Miyagi area, mentioned lately.
Others are extra eager, with Fukushima governor Masao Uchibori saying Thursday the torch would “connect people all over Japan”.
“The reconstruction Games are very special to people living in Fukushima. We want to show the energy of today’s Fukushima to the world.”
The relay will take a circuitous route, first heading south to the islands of Okinawa earlier than reversing course for the northern area of Hokkaido and at last again to Tokyo.
The flame will cross landmarks together with Mount Fuji and the Hiroshima City Peace Memorial Park.
However, there are nonetheless challenges forward for organisers.
Several dozen torchbearers have dropped out, citing points together with scheduling conflicts and issues in regards to the coronavirus.
Officials from one area have warned they may cancel the relay there if virus countermeasures aren’t improved.
But organisers are hopeful the occasion will supply respite after a tough year.
“People are feeling cut off from each other at this time,” Hashimoto mentioned Wednesday.
“These 10,000 runners can connect with people everywhere.”