July 12, 2018
Tokyo- The torch relay for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will start in Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan, on March 26 of that year, the organizing committee of the games announced on Thursday.
The relay will take place over a period of 121 days until July 24, 2020, when the opening ceremony for the Tokyo Games will be held, with the torch traveling through all of the country's 47 prefectures.
The overall schedule and other specifics, including the order of prefectures for the relay and the number of days to be spent in each prefecture, were approved at Thursday's meeting of senior officials of the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Japanese government and the Tokyo metropolitan government.
An idea of starting the relay in the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa, where the weather is warm even at the beginning of spring, was once studied as an option.
But the parties involved eventually picked Fukushima, one of the three prefectures hit hardest by the March 11, 2011, powerful earthquake and tsunami, as the starting point, in light of the 2020 games' concept of having the event showcase to the world the reconstruction of areas damaged by the disaster and the fact that a number of Fukushima residents have been evacuated.
The concept was developed as 2020 will mark the 10th year after the disaster. Fukushima is also home to Tokyo Electric Power Company Holding Inc.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, which was heavily damaged in the disaster.
The other two prefectures most heavily damaged by the quake and tsunami are Miyagi and Iwate, near Fukushima.
"The hardships and grief experienced by people from the three prefectures must be extraordinary," Yoshiro Mori, president of the organizing committee and former prime minister, said after the meeting.
"I hope the torch relay will encourage those in areas affected by the 2011 disaster and boost the mood of people across Japan," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference.
The quake and tsunami have left more than 15,000 people dead and over 2,500 others missing.
"It will be very meaningful for the flame of reconstruction to tour across the country after starting in Fukushima," Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike told reporters.
Touching on recent torrential rain in western Japan that has left a number of people dead, Koike said, "I hope the torch relay will cheer up everyone."
After the start of the relay in Fukushima, the torch will travel southward, touring the Chubu central region, the Kinki and Shikoku western regions, and the Kyushu southwestern region, before arriving in Okinawa in early May.
The flame will then return to Kyushu, travel northward through the Chugoku western region, the Hokuriku central region and the Sea of Japan side of the Tohoku northeastern region, and reach the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido in mid-June.
After touring Iwate and Miyagi on the Pacific side of Tohoku later, the torch will arrive in Tokyo on July 10. It will spend 15 days traveling through all municipalities in the capital, including those on islands, and the relay will see its finale at the July 24 opening ceremony for the Olympics, to be held at the new National Stadium, now under construction in central Tokyo.
In the 121-day period, there are seven days in total when the relay will halt for transporting the flame by sea, including between Kyushu and Okinawa.
The relay will run for three days in each of the three prefectures hit hardest by the March 2011 disaster and in Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa and Shizuoka prefectures, which are each scheduled to host events for two or more Olympic sports.
The torch will travel for two days each in the 39 other prefectures.
Each of the 47 prefectures will decide its own relay route, with the prefectural routes to be submitted to the organizing committee by the end of this year.
The detailed relay route is planned to be announced around the summer of 2019, and torch-bearers will be selected afterward.
The International Olympic Committee, which normally demands that the torch relay be held within 100 days, granted an extension to the Tokyo Games at the request of the organizing committee.
After being lit in Greece, the torch will be displayed in the disaster-hit prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima ahead of the start of the relay as a symbol of postdisaster reconstruction. Jiji Press
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