Japan initiates ceremonial 3-year countdown to Tokyo 2020

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Japan has kicked of the three-year countdown to the Opening Ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Monday in Japan witnessed numerous promotional events across the country.

A 15-day 1,000 kilometres “citizens relay” begun in Aomori prefecture in northeastern Japan. Runners and cyclists will travel through the areas devastated by the 2011 tsunami before reaching Tokyo on August 7, insidethegames.co has reported. Sydney 2000 Olympic marathon gold medallist Naoko Takahashi and four-time reigning Olympic wrestling champion Kaori Icho took part in the relay.

Among other activities held were traditional dancing and surfing at Chiba prefecture’s Tsurigasaki Beach, the venue for the sport at Tokyo 2020.

“Six years on from the disaster, I felt our hearts are together,” Takahashi was reported as saying by Kyodo News after running the first 1.7km. “I hope we can all move forward.”

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, speaking at the opening of the event, said: “We want to continue to boost the mood for the 2020 Games over the next three years without getting out of breath.”

The Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, meanwhile, co-hosted a flag tour festival in the capital in conjunction with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the Japanese Olympic Committee and the Japanese Paralympic Committee. Around 5,000 spectators joined Japanese Olympians and Paralympians and other guests at Tokyo’s Citizens’ Plaza in Shinjuku to celebrate the milestone.

Since the Olympic and Paralympic flags were brought to Tokyo from 2016 host city Rio de Janeiro last year, they have been paraded through all cities, towns, wards and villages in the Tokyo Metropolitan area, prefectures affected by the 2011 tsunami and through the Kumamoto prefecture that was hit by a major earthquake in 2016.

The Central Government also launched an annual “telework” day, encouraging more people to work at home in a bid to ease traffic congestion on the day the Olympics opens. More than 900 businesses and organisations joined the initiative, which the Government plans to continue every year through to 2020.

“Today (Monday) marks exactly three years until the start of the Tokyo 2020 Games,” Tokyo 2020 President Yoshirō Mori said. “We hope to show the best of Tokyo and Japan through the innovative initiatives that we are implementing in the lead up to what we believe will be the most exciting Games ever,” Mori went onto reveal some of the Organising Committee’s future plans.

The Capital city of Japan will play host the 2020 Games from July 24 to August 9.

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