Tokyo Olympic torch to travel through 3 regions of Fukushima

25 August 2018

The Fukushima prefectural government’s executive committee discussing routes for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic torch relay inside the prefecture decided at its inaugural meeting on Aug. 24 to let the flame go through the Hamadori region on the Pacific coast, the Nakadori region in central Fukushima and the Aizu region in the west. Fukushima is set to be the starting point of the nationwide torch relay. Under the concept of “showcasing reconstruction through the Olympics” from the Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing nuclear accident, the local government is seeking to call global attention to the prefecture on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the disaster and send out information on Fukushima’s steady recovery from the calamity. By setting up torch relay courses covering broad areas, it is expected to encourage many prefectural people to participate in the event.

■Policy set at inaugural executive committee meeting

The executive committee held the inaugural session at the prefectural government office in Fukushima city, meeting behind closed doors except for the outset. Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori, chairman of the panel, told reporters after the meeting that the committee “endorsed the idea of selecting relay routes matching the reconstruction Olympics.” He indicated that the committee will discuss route plans traversing many areas in the prefecture while transmitting information on the present status of disaster-affected regions. At the meeting, some committee members said the torch relay should pass through as many areas as possible in the Hamadori, Nakadori and Aizu regions and that due consideration should be paid to disaster areas as well as places of evacuation, according to Uchibori.

At their forthcoming meetings, working-level caretaker members of the committee will look into a specific starting point, municipalities the relay will pass and a place where an arrival event is to be held, among other things. The committee will hold rounds of discussions on plans drafted by the caretaker group and fix the cities, towns and villages to be covered by the torch relay in late December. Detailed journey routes in the municipalities involved will be put into place early next year. In selecting the routes, the committee will make it possible to publicize respective scenic places, tourist spots and other attractions.

The Fukushima torch relay will be conducted for three days. The committee believes it impossible to go through all 59 municipalities but intends to cover as many of them as possible. In the Olympic torch relays in recent years such as those in London and Rio de Janeiro, each flame route consisted of six to seven legs per day, with each leg stretching around 2 kilometers and about 10 runners relaying the torch over a distance of 200 meters each. The committee is set to work out details using these examples for reference.

The Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games is scheduled to announce official torch relay routes across Japan sometime in the summer of 2019 after obtaining approval of its official nationwide route plan, including the Fukushima portion, from the International Olympic Committee. Following the announcement, the Fukushima committee will launch the process of inviting applicants for runners on prefectural routes and selecting torch bearers and escort runners from among them.

The Olympic flame is set to be lit at the Olympia archaeological site in Greece in March 2020 for airlifting to Japan. After arriving at Matsushima Air Base of the Air Self-Defense Force in Higashimatsushima city, Miyagi Prefecture, the flame will be on display for two days each in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures before the torch relay kicks off in Fukushima on March 26.

At the previous Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964, the torch relay was taken over by Fukushima from Miyagi. It traveled south along Route 4 in the Nakadori region for a 118-km stretch on 71 legs before being relayed to Tochigi Prefecture.

(Translated by Kyodo News)