The Japanese city of Fukushima witnessed the launch of the Tokyo Olympic torch relay, which has been postponed since last year, amid the absence of the masses in light of fears of an outbreak of the Covid-19 virus.
On March 15, the organizing committee announced that it is committed to “ensuring the safety and security of the torch relay for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, by taking preventive measures, to prevent the spread of infection among the torchbearers, the rest of the participants in the march, in addition to the local population as well,” according to the agency Reuters.
A ray of light at the end of darkness
The rose gold torch, whose top is the shape of cherry blossom, was lit at a party at the Jay Flag Sports Center in Fukushima, Japan.
The Olympic Organizing Committee chose the center for its symbolism, as it represented the base for rescue operations, in the wake of the nuclear disaster, earthquake, and severe tsunami that struck northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011, killing about 18,500 people.
In her speech, Committee Chair Seiko Hashimoto said that she hoped the Olympic flame would represent a “ray of light at the end of darkness”, adding that “this little flame has never lost hope, and I wait for this day like a cherry blossom is about to bloom.”
Cherry blossoms are known as “sakura” in Japan, and they are the most popular and preferred species by the Japanese, as they bear a national character. They formed a symbol to motivate Japanese pilots during World War II, and they painted them on the sides of their aircraft before embarking on suicide missions, and they symbolize beauty and life. Ephemeral.
The torch will pass through 47 Japanese cities and end its journey at Tokyo National Stadium, the official opening day of the Olympiad, on July 23.
The organizing committee banned the public attendance at Thursday’s ceremony, but they will be able to line up on the sides of the road to follow the torch relay in the upcoming stations, in the event that they commit to wearing protective masks against the Covid-19 virus, in addition to avoiding crowds, with encouragement only by applause.
Japanese fans will attend the upcoming Summer Games matches only, as the Organizing Committee decided, early this week, to refund the value of tickets sold to foreigners, in light of the measures taken to curb the spread of the virus.
An opinion poll for the Japanese newspaper The Yomiuri newspaper, earlier this March, showed that if the games are to be held this year, 91% of respondents want to have the fewest fans possible, or not be allowed to attend.
Japan recorded about 460,000 infections, compared to nearly 8,900 deaths from the Covid-19 virus, and is currently suffering from a high daily infection index, in light of the outbreak of the third wave of the virus, according to data from the Worldometers website.