Olympic torch relay begins 121-day journey to Tokyo

The torch is lit by a member of Japan’s women’s national soccer team “Nadeshiko Japan” during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay Grand Start in Naraha, Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan, Thursday, March 25, 2021. The torch relay for the postponed Tokyo Olympics began its 121-day journey across Japan on Thursday and is headed toward the opening ceremony in Tokyo on July 23. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Pool Photo via AP

The torch for the Tokyo Olympics has started its 121-day journey across Japan, heading towards the opening ceremony in the capital on July 23.

The relay began in north-eastern Fukushima prefecture, the area that was devastated by the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and the meltdown of three nuclear reactors.

The first runner with the torch was Azusa Iwashimizu, a key player in the Japanese football team that won the Women’s World Cup in 2011.

Wearing a white tracksuit, she carried the torch out of the J-Village indoor football training centre and was surrounded by 14 other members of the 2011 World Cup squad and coach Norio Sasaki at the rear.

The ceremony was closed to the public because of the fear of spreading Covid-19 but was streamed live.

“The torch of Tokyo 2020 will become a bright light for hope for Japanese citizens and citizens in the world and a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Seiko Hashimoto, president of the local organising committee and a former Olympian.

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