• Kyodo

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A 1,000-km citizens’ relay from Aomori Prefecture to Tokyo kicked off Monday as part of several events marking the three-year countdown to the 2020 Olympics.

In the 15-day event, about 1,800 runners and cyclists including Olympic medalists will run through the area devastated by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami before reaching the capital on Aug. 7.

Olympic marathon gold medalist Naoko Takahashi and Olympic wrestling champion Kaori Icho took part in the first day of the relay.

“Six years on from the disaster, I felt our hearts are together,” Takahashi said after running the first 1.7-km stage. “I hope we can all move forward.”

At the event’s opening ceremony, which was aired live at City Hall, Gov. Yuriko Koike laid out her vision for the run-up to the games.

“I want you to deliver hope,” she said. “We want to continue to boost the mood for the 2020 Games over the next three years without running out of steam.”

On the same day, Koike and other Tokyo officials kicked off a daily exercise routine they said they will perform daily until Sept. 6 this year.

The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will be held between July 24 and Sept. 6, 2020.

In Chiba Prefecture, professional surfers showed off their skills Monday at Tsurigasaki Beach, which was selected as the Olympic surfing venue.

Masaya Mabuchi, the mayor of Ichinomiya, which oversees the beach, collected trash at the site with the event participants and vowed to welcome people from around the world.

In a related event on the day, the central government designated Monday as a “day of telework” as part of preparations to ease congestion from the massive crowds expected to clog the metropolis during the Olympics. The date encourages people to work from home.

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