The Olympic flame on Friday completed its difficult journey from Greece to Japan.
That signified a small, symbolic victory for the IOC and local organisers, who maintain the Tokyo Olympics will open on July 24 amid a chorus of doubters who believe they should be postponed or canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“For the first time in 56 years, the Olympic torch is heading to Tokyo and I hope that the Olympic torch will illuminate the path of hope for many people,” organising committee President Yoshiro Mori said at a scaled-down arrival ceremony at an air base in northern Japan.
Mori of course was referring to Tokyo’s famous 1964 Olympics. Tokyo was also to have been the venue for the 1940 Olympics, which were cancelled by World War II.
“We will work closely with the International Olympic Committee, the Japanese government, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government,” he said, and based on the World Health Organisation’s advice, “we will ensure a safe and secure games.”
The flame, carried in a tiny canister from Greece, reached Japan aboard a white aircraft painted with the inscription “Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay” along its side. The tail section was adorned with the refrain “Hope Lights our Way.
The aircraft was welcomed on the tarmac by a small contingent of organising committee officials. Two of Japan’s most famous Olympians — three-time wresting gold medalist Saori Yoshida and three-time judo gold medalist Tadahiro Nomura — received the flame for the lighting ceremony.
The two climbed portable stairs and entered the aircraft before emerging holding the cradle-like canister with a flame burning inside. They handed it over at the base of the stairs to Mori, who delivered a brief acceptance speech in a gusting wind.
Yoshida and Nomura then took the torch and ignited a large cauldron on the tarmac of the air base.
Mori referred to the “difficult situation” with the virus, and then thanked the IOC and Greek officials that the “hand-over ceremony was able to be held” with the Olympics set to open in just over four months.
The torch relay in Greece, following the symbolic lighting on March 12, was stopped during the second day and did not resume because of large crowds. Japanese organisers have asked crowds to be “restrained” and could stop or delay the relay if they are not.
Sourced by: Associated Press