National

2020 Tokyo Olympics torch relay to pass through disaster-hit areas, World Heritage sites

Kyodo

The organizing committee of the 2020 Games said Saturday the Tokyo Olympics torch relay will pass through major Japanese landmarks, including World Heritage sites and areas devastated by recent natural disasters.

According to the route revealed by organizers, the torch will travel to 857 municipalities in all of the country’s 47 prefectures, shining a light on the symbols of reconstruction from the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, and the subsequent nuclear disaster.

About 10,000 torch bearers will participate over the 121-day relay, with the organizers revealing the specific routes later this year. The earliest application window will open June 17.

Since the Tokyo Olympics have been dubbed the “reconstruction Olympics,” the torch will pass through municipalities heavily hit by the 2011 disaster which devastated parts of the Tohoku region.

It will commence on March 26 next year at Fukushima Prefecture’s J-Village, a soccer training center that was an operational base for dealing with the nuclear crisis.

The “Miracle Pine” monument, in a park dedicated to a tree that remained standing when all the other 70,000 around it were washed away by tsunami waves, is among the various landmarks from the northeastern region. On the first day, the torch will also travel through Okuma, where one part of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear complex is located.

Organizers said they had selected a route that goes through “places in each region with great attraction” in a bid to introduce them to people in Japan and abroad.

World Heritage sites designated by UNESCO, including Mount Fuji, the nation’s tallest mountain, and Hiroshima Prefecture’s Miyajima Island, home to the Itsukushima Shrine and its floating gate, are among major landmarks along the route.

The torch will also visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, dedicated to the victims of the world’s first atomic bombing in 1945. Tomioka Silk Mill, a factory building in Gunma Prefecture symbolizing the country’s industrialization from the 19th century, is on the itinerary on the seventh day of the relay.

The flame will make its entrance at Tokyo’s New National Stadium on July 24 during the opening ceremony.

Four Olympic sponsors will hold individual application windows for those wishing to become torch bearers, as well as the organizers in each of the 47 prefectures. Coca-Cola Japan Co. will open its application process on June 17.

According to the organizers, people of all genders and nationalities are eligible to become torch bearers, as long as they were born before April 1, 2008, and have a connection with a prefecture they wish to participate in.

Those who have not reached the age of 18 by March 1, 2020, need permission from a parent or guardian to participate.

The organizers also unveiled the torch bearers’ uniforms. They are made using recycled plastic bottles in a bid to promote sustainability.

Employing the torch relay’s theme, “Hope Lights Our Way,” the shirts have a graphic of a line that symbolizes the road of hope illuminated by the flame.

The flame lighting ceremony will take place next March 12 in Olympia, Greece. Following an eight-day relay in Greece, the flame will be transported to Japan, where it will be displayed in Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi prefectures, the three hardest hit by the 2011 catastrophe.

The Olympics will be held in Tokyo for the second time, following the 1964 Games.

Next summer’s extravaganza will feature 33 sports and 339 events between July 24 and Aug. 9, followed by the Paralympics from Aug. 25 to Sept. 6.