The long-awaited torch relay for the postponed Tokyo Olympics is to commence in the north-eastern prefecture of Fukushima on Thursday despite persistent concerns about the coronavirus.
The 121-day relay is due to start at the J-Village football training centre near the damaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, the site of Japan’s worst atomic disaster 10 years ago.
The Olympic flame will be carried in turns by about 10,000 torchbearers across the nation’s 47 prefectures.
The relay culminates in the lighting of the Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Games on July 23.
“We hope that the torch relay can bring hope, strength, and energy to each destination, embodying the theme of ‘Hope Lights Our Way,'” Tokyo organising committee president Seiko Hashimoto told a news conference on Wednesday.
Hashimoto also thanked the torchbearers for their patience as the coronavirus pandemic forced the committee and the International Olympic Committee a year ago to delay the Games until this summer.
“I hope you will connect the thoughts and feelings of us all, so that this can become a source of collective power for our society to overcome hardship,” she said.
The relay will be held with strict social distancing measures.
People are encouraged to watch it online and organisers are asking roadside spectators to wear masks and not to shout or cheer to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Members of Japan’s women’s football team from 2011, who won the World Cup that year, will get the relay under way on Thursday.