The Olympic torch has been lit in Fukushima, Japan, by organizers of the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympics holding a year late due to COVID-19 disruption.
The ceremony was held at the J-Village national football training facility and it signals the start of the Olympic Torch Relay.
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The Olympic flame will journey across all of Japan before it arrives in Tokyo for the opening of the Olympic Games on 23 July this year.
The torch will spend 121 days touring the country before arriving at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, venue of the opening ceremony.
Japan women’s national football team who won the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup were the first torchbearers, handing it over to 16 years old Owada Asato with the torch set to visit 859 municipalities.
The International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach hailed the event as one that shows the importance of unity and “light at the end of the tunnel” after a turbulent year.
“Earlier today, the world watched with great enthusiasm how the Olympic flame began its journey around Japan. Congratulations to the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and the Japanese people for this achievement.
“Inspired by the Olympic values of peace and solidarity, the Olympic Torch Relay will carry Tokyo 2020’s message, ‘hope lights our way’, across Japan and the world. It will also acknowledge the challenges faced by society since last year, highlighting the importance of unity and solidarity within humankind, showing that we can only become stronger – together.
“We will follow the Olympic Torch Relay with great excitement over the coming weeks. The sight of the Olympic flame will be a very emotional moment, not only for the Japanese people, but also for the thousands of athletes around the globe, many of whom see this year’s Games as the light at the end of the tunnel. The final countdown has now begun – in 121 days’ time the Olympic cauldron will be lit. Tokyo will provide the athletes with the stage on which to shine.”
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics will hold without overseas spectators from 23 July to 8 August 2021.