Paralympics

Flame lighting ceremonies to celebrate Paralympics to begin Aug. 13 ahead of torch relay

Kyodo

The first flames for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics will be lit in over 140 municipalities across 28 prefectures Aug. 13 in the run-up to the torch relay, the organizing committee said Thursday.

The initial wave of ceremonies to celebrate the lighting of flames will be held through Aug. 17 in 43 prefectures. The flames, to be lit in a variety of unique ways by each prefecture, will visit schools, hospitals, sightseeing spots and facilities connected to the Paralympics ahead of their respective departure ceremonies.

The remaining ceremonies and the torch relay will be held in the prefectures of Shizuoka, Chiba, Saitama and Tokyo — all hosts of Paralympic events — between Aug. 18 and 25.

Over 700 municipalities nationwide will participate in the ceremonies, aimed at promoting the organizers’ theme of an inclusive society as well as boosting public interest and support ahead of the games.

“The Paralympic torch relay emphasizes diversity and character,” said Teruhiko Okada, torch relay director. “It is a grand process of collecting flames lit in a variety of ways into one sacred flame.”

Unlike the Olympic flame, the Paralympic flame can be lit in more than one place and brought together ahead of the opening ceremony.

The manner of lighting the flames, to be revealed in the spring, has been left up to each prefecture. In fifteen of the prefectures, every city, town and village will take part.

Organizers have revealed a variety of methods, including one that would use sunlight reflected by water flowing from an underground lake, to traditional methods such as the use of flint.

The city of Rikuzentakata, site of the most deaths and missing persons in Iwate Prefecture following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, will light its flame from a gas lamp commemorating the victims.

In Oita, the prefecture’s flames will be collected at Japan Sun Industries in Beppu, a facility set up by the late doctor and “father of the Paralympics in Japan,” Yutaka Nakamura, who played a key role in the 1964 Tokyo Paralympics.

Flames will also be lit at special schools in Gunma and Ishikawa, as well as Nagano’s M-Wave ice arena, a 1998 Paralympic Winter Games venue.

The Peace Memorial Park in Okinawa and the iconic red brick warehouse district in Yokohama are also some of the historic locations set to host the flame-lighting ceremonies.

The Paralympic torch relay will start Aug. 18 in Shizuoka before moving to Chiba on Aug. 19, Saitama on Aug. 20 and Tokyo on Aug. 21, when the flames from all 47 prefectures, as well as that from Britain’s Stoke Mandeville, the spiritual birthplace of the Paralympic movement, will be merged into a single flame.

The relay, which will feature about 1,000 runners, will continue inside the capital before ending its journey at the opening ceremony on Aug. 25.

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