Japan sports legends to start Tokyo Olympic torch relay in Fukushima
Members of Japan’s 2011 Women’s World Cup champion team will be the first torchbearers once the Tokyo Olympic torch relay hits Japan on March 26.
Members of the team, which beat the U.S. in a shootout in the final to become the first Asian team to win a World Cup, will pass the flame at J-Village National Training Centre in Fukushima.
“The fighting spirit the team displayed during the World Cup inspired many of the people struggling in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake, which had struck the country earlier that year,” according to Tokyo 2020.
As previously announced, the 121-day relay starts in the tsunami-affected prefecture of Fukushima, after the Olympic flame arrives from its ceremonial lighting in Olympia, Greece, on March 12.
Japanese Olympic gold medalists Mizuki Noguchi (marathon), Tadahiro Nomura (judo) and Saori Yoshida (wrestling) will be among the torchbearers for the Tokyo 2020 torch relay’s first eight days in Greece.
The Olympic Flame will spend eight days in Greece before being flown to Japan leading to the July 24 Opening Ceremony.
The relay will visit all 47 prefectures of Japan with emphasis on the area affected by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Around 98 percent of Japan’s population live within one hour by car or train of the route.
With the motto “Hope Lights Our Way,” it will visit the three prefectures most affected by the tsunami and earthquake (Fukushima (March 26-28), Iwate (June 17-19) and Miyagi (June 20-22)) for three days each.
More than 18,000 people died or went missing after a massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011.
The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo organizers have been eager to use the Games as a symbol of recovery from the 2011 disaster that hit Japan’s northeastern region including Fukushima, 150 miles north of Tokyo, where entire communities fled after meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant.
In March 2017, Tokyo 2020 confirmed that some baseball and softball games will be held in Fukushima. That includes the very first competition of the Games, a softball game two days before the Opening Ceremony.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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