After a year-long delay, traversing 46 prefectures over 106 days, the Olympic flame has finally arrived in Tokyo; the flame will 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 23 July 2021.
The Olympic flame has arrived in Tokyo for the final two-weeks of its 120-day relay around all 47 prefectures of Japan.
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. "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 25 March, 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.
And as a former athlete himself, he added: "It has been a very difficult year for all the athletes. They have been thinking about how to move forward. But their hopes did not disappear. Just like the flame, they finally made the journey here with all the supports from people around.
"We really want to support athletes from all over the world who come under this situation. We believe that this will be a big step forward. Tokyo can do it, Japan can do it!"
The Olympic Torch Relay will now tour the capital for two weeks before its journey ends on 23 July, when it will be used to light the Olympic Cauldron during the Opening Ceremony at Tokyo's Olympic Stadium.
The journey to Tokyo
The Olympic flame’s long journey began when it was lit at the historic site of Ancient Olympia in Greece on 12 March 2020, and handed over Tokyo 2020 during a ceremony at the Panathenaic Stadium a week later, on 19 March. 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 coronavirus 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 25 March 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 which devastated the region.
Dubbed the "Flame of Recovery", the Olympic Torch became a symbol of hope to those who worked tirelessly to rebuild their local communities and a symbol of gratitude to people around the world who showed their support to the region following the devastating natural disaster 10 years ago.
Beacon of hope
The Olympic Torch Relay has shone a light on various cultural and scenic attractions from each of the 46 prefectures it has visited; from historical sites and places of interest, to traversing over mountains, paddling across rivers and through dozens of towns and cities along the way.
For the next two-weeks, the flame will tour the capital before it arrives at the Olympic Stadium. Due to COVID-19 regulations the itinerary will not be as initially planned, but the message of hope will still burn bright.
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