The rose-gold, cherry blossom-shaped Olympic torch was lit, marking the beginning of a four month-journey towards the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo Games on 23 July 2021, at the J-Village sports complex in Fukushima, which served as a base for operations responding to the 2011 nuclear disaster.
Speaking at the launch ceremony, Tokyo 2020 chief Seiko Hashimoto said she hoped the Olympic flame would serve as “a ray of light at the end of the darkness”. The ceremony was awash in flowers and welcome bloom as the residents of Japan called out to the world a message of warmth and opening. The event was smaller than originally planned, but it met the moment with a subtle flourish. Iwashimizu Azusa, a key player of the Japanese women’s football team that won the World Cup in 2011, was the first runner with the torch. The area was devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011 and the effects of the ensuing tsunami and nuclear disaster are still felt there to this day.
The nationwide relay, like the Olympics themselves, will be vastly different from previous editions, with spectators banned from cheering and kept away from the launch and first leg over coronavirus concerns.