Yokohama – The city of Sagamihara in Kanagawa Prefecture will scrap its plan to hold a Paralympic flame-lighting event at a care facility for people with mental disabilities where one of Japan’s worst mass killings took place in July 2016, local government sources said Thursday.
The decision comes after some relatives of the victims of the stabbings at Tsukui Yamayuri En, where 19 residents were killed and 26 injured by a former male employee of the facility, as well as support groups, had voiced opposition to the planned lighting of the flame at the site of the incident.
While the city informed the prefectural government and the Tokyo Paralympic organizing committee of its plan, it failed to consult the bereaved families.
“This is a place for the repose of souls. It is totally unacceptable to use this place for a festival event,” said Takashi Ono, whose son Kazuya was seriously injured in the rampage.
Mayor Kentaro Motomura will formally announce the withdrawal of the plan at a press conference Friday, the sources said.
On March 31, the city announced that the flame would be lit at the care facility on Aug. 15 to symbolize its desire to eliminate all forms of discrimination in line with the Paralympic movement’s values.
Satoshi Uematsu was sentenced to death in March last year for the rampage at the facility, which is undergoing construction following the demolition of the building where the incident took place. Residents are expected to begin moving into the new building from August.
The Tokyo Paralympic torch relay will start on Aug. 12 following the conclusion of the Olympic Games, which will run July 23 to Aug. 8.
Flame-lighting festivals will take place across Japan leading up to the lighting of the Paralympic cauldron at the opening ceremony of the games on Aug. 24 at Tokyo’s National Stadium.
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