500 Days Remaining Until Tokyo 2020

(ATR) Tokyo prepares for its biggest mark ahead of the one year countdown to the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 05:  Kiesuke Ushiro of Japan carries the flag during the Opening Ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Maracana Stadium on August 5, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 05: Kiesuke Ushiro of Japan carries the flag during the Opening Ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Maracana Stadium on August 5, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

(ATR) A caravan bus travelling from Tokyo to regions affected by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake will kick off 500 days to go ceremonies for the 2020 Olympics.

March 12 is the first of two 500 days to go ceremonies that will be held for Tokyo 2020. A second ceremony will be held on April 13 to mark 500 days to go until the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

A bus will be specially designed for the event, which will begin visiting children in Tokyo to start the ceremonies. At the kickoff event Tokyo 2020 will release the sport pictograms, which are one of the first indications of the "look of the Games".

After the pictograms are revealed the bus will go to Machida-no-oka Special Support School in Tokyo to visit schoolchildren.

"Tokyo 2020 Caravan bus with a special 500 days countdown design will visit children in Tokyo and disaster affected areas in Tohoku (Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima) to celebrate the 500 [days to go] and to boost excitement toward the Tokyo 2020 Games," Yukihiro Shinbo, Director for Project Section, Planning and Promotion Division, at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s Bureau of Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 Preparation said to Around the Rings.

Halfway between the two 500 days to go events, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government will hold one final event to end the nationwide Olympic and Paralympic flag tour. After Tokyo received the Olympic flag at the end of the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics, it set out to bring the flags to municipalities around the country.

"We’ll celebrate both the 500 days countdown and the return of the Olympic and Paralympic flags, which have toured Tokyo’s 62 municipalities and Japan’s 47 prefectures for nearly three years to build momentum across Japan for the Tokyo 2020 Games," Shinbo added.

Celebrations for Tokyo 2020 are coinciding with the eighth anniversary of the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and tsunami that decimated the northeast section of Japan’s largest island.

Japanese government officials have pushed to have Tokyo 2020 play a part in the recovery efforts of the Tohoku region. The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay will begin in Fukushima, which will also host opening matches for baseball and softball. Rifu, a city in Miyagi Prefecture will also host soccer matches as part of the 2020 football tournament.

That notion of a "recovery Olympics" has rubbed some relocated citizens the wrong way, both AFPand the Japan Timesrecently reported.

Relocated citizens will soon no longer be able to rely on subsidies from the Japanese government, and residents have voiced concerns that Tokyo’s branding has painted a picture of the area that is far from reality. Anti-Olympics activists even visited the region in an attempt to highlight concerns over safety in Fukushima and the messaging of the Olympics.

Still, the preparations for the Games continue to move into final phases. Venue construction will be finalized over the next year, and test events begin in earnest this June.

Speculation about the size of Japan’s team at the 2020 Olympics has begun from the local media. Kyodo News reported that Japan could bring over 500 athletes to the 2020 Olympics, the largest ever Olympic delegation from the country.

New sports baseball, softball, karate, sport climbing, skateboarding, and surfing could add as many as 67 athletes to the host team, the report said. Japan sent over 350 athletes to the 1964 Olympics, the last time Tokyo hosted, and sent 338 to Rio 2016.

Written by Aaron Bauer

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