Olympics

2011 World Cup winners will open torch relay

Kyodo

The members of the Nadeshiko Japan soccer team that won the Women’s World Cup in 2011 will open the domestic leg of the Olympic torch relay, the 2020 Tokyo Games organizing committee announced Tuesday.

Organizers unveiled a detailed route for the relay covering all 47 Japanese prefectures, with the Olympic flame being carried by runners, cyclists, swimmers and skiers, as well as on horseback, water vessels and trains.

The members of the 2011 women’s national soccer team, captained by Homare Sawa, were favored to kick off the relay for having lifted the country’s spirits by prevailing at that year’s World Cup in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster in northeastern Japan.

Organizers have dubbed the 2020 Tokyo Games “the Reconstruction Olympics” in a bid to showcase the country’s recovery from the 2011 disasters.

All 21 members of the team, who received the People’s Honor Award for their efforts, and former coach Norio Sasaki have been asked to take part in the relay.

The team secured Japan’s first Women’s World Cup at the quadrennial tournament in Germany.

The Japan segment of the relay will begin on March 26 at J-Village, a soccer training center in Fukushima Prefecture that was an operational base for dealing with the nuclear crisis.

Several elaborate methods for carrying the torch will be employed throughout the route that will wind through 858 municipalities and pass national landmarks, World Heritage sites and areas devastated by recent disasters.

In Hiroshima and Oita prefectures, the torch will be carried by swimmers using an ancient method passed down through Japanese martial arts.

The torch will also be carried by a skier in Fukushima, on a traditional “sabani” fishing boat in Okinawa Prefecture, and on the Arakawa River in Tokyo’s neighboring prefecture of Saitama.

In Miyagi Prefecture’s Higashimatsushima, the torch will be taken aboard the JR Senseki Line, which was devastated in the 2011 disaster and not fully restored until 2015.

Other torchbearers revealed Tuesday include astronaut Mamoru Mohri and DeNA BayStars manager Alex Ramirez, running in Ibaraki and Kanagawa prefectures, respectively.

The flame is scheduled to be lit in Greece on March 12. Athens Olympic women’s marathon gold medalist Mizuki Noguchi will be the first from Japan to carry the torch after it passes from a Greek runner.

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