Tokyo Olympics: After a year-long delay, traversing 46 prefectures over 106 days, the Olympic flame has finally arrived in Tokyo on Friday ahead of the Olympic Games.
The flame will now embark on a two-week tour around the city before it will be used to light the Olympic Cauldron at the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on July 23. Travelling under the banner, “Hope Lights Our Way”, the flame was welcomed at a ceremony at the Komazawa Olympic Park Stadium, a venue built for the Olympic Games Tokyo 1964.
“I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all those who have helped to make the Torch Relay a successful one,” Governor of Tokyo, Koike Yuriko said, as per Olympics.com. “We have been able to overcome these difficult conditions with the help of the people all over Japan, and with a lot of ingenuity.”
The flame was carried to the podium by three-time Paralympic shooter Taguchi Aki. It was a special moment for Taguchi, as it came 106-days after she lit the celebration cauldron when the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay was re-started in Fukushima on March 25, this year.
“I could feel that the torchbearers have put a lot of thought [into running with] the flame,” she said. “Some ran with gratitude while others had different personal reasons for taking part.”
Alongside her was Matsuoka Shuzo, a former Japanese professional tennis player from Tokyo, who wanted to highlight the Olympic flame as a symbol of hope despite the year-long delay.
“Although we felt interrupted in our hearts following the postponement of the Games, the flame did not give up. Despite all the difficulties, the flame has been carrying the thoughts of the Japanese people and people around the world, from one place to another, now it arrives here. I would like to say thank you to people’s thoughts,” he said.
The Olympic flame’s long journey began when it was lit at the historic site of Ancient Olympia in Greece on March 12, 2020, and handed over to Tokyo 2020 during a ceremony at the Panathenaic Stadium a week later, on March 19. It was flown 9,500 km to Japan and arrived at Matsushima Air Base, Miyagi Prefecture, the following day.
However, its journey was interrupted following the outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent postponement of the Games. During that time, the Olympic flame was kept alight at the Olympic Museum in Tokyo.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay re-started on March 25 this year and travelled through the prefectures of Miyagi, Iwate, and Fukushima — the areas hardest hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011. It was the country’s strongest earthquake on record and triggered a tsunami that devastated the region.