The Olympic torch has officially started its 121-day tour across Japan, marking the long-awaited start to the 2020 Summer Games celebrations. The torch was officially lit Thursday morning in the Fukushima prefecture during a considerably intimate ceremony due to Covid-19 precautions.
Although the official ceremony was pared down compared to years past, the torch will still be transported from athlete to athlete as it travels through the country; making its way south through Osaka and into the island of Okinawa. The flame is also expected to be passed north to Hokkaido before making its way to Tokyo, where it will rest for the remainder of the celebratory period.
“For the past year, as the entire world underwent a difficult period, the Olympic flame was kept alive quietly but powerfully,” Seiko Hashimoto, Tokyo 2020 president said at the opening ceremony to a mere handful of spectators. “The small flame did not lose hope, and just like the cherry blossom buds that are ready to bloom, it was waiting for this day.”
The four month journey, which involves about 10,000 runners passing the torch along, will include stops in all 47 of Japan’s prefectures. After arriving in Tokyo, it will continue to move around the city up until the opening ceremony set for July 23, 2021.
According to various reports, spectators who hope to see the torch up close and personal will have the opportunity to do so, but have been asked to respect social distancing measures and refrain from cheering. The committee has also been explicitly clear on their willingness to change plans or re-route if crowds of spectators becomes a threat to Covid-19 safety measures.