Torch relay for 2020 Tokyo Games to start in Fukushima Prefecture

TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) - The torch relay for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games will begin in Fukushima Prefecture on March 26, 2020, the Games’ coordination council decided Thursday at a meeting in Tokyo.

 The council members agreed that starting the relay in the prefecture would be an opportunity to showcase the reconstruction of local cities and towns severely affected by the tsunami triggered by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and the following accident at a nuclear power plant.
 The torch relay will last 121 days, traveling through all 47 prefectures until the Games’ opening ceremony on July 24, 2020.
 The council also decided on the schedule for the relay’s progress through the prefectures. 
Taking into consideration the possibility of there still being snow on the relay course in late March, the council decided to have the torch head south from Fukushima Prefecture. 
 The relay will move from Osaka Prefecture to the Shikoku region.
 The segment in the Kyushu region will subsequently start from Oita Prefecture on April 24.
 The torch will spend May 2-3 in Okinawa Prefecture — the starting point of the 1964 Tokyo Games torch relay — and return to Kyushu before going northward on Honshu. 
 Runners will pass the torch in Hokkaido on June 14-15 and then return to the mainland on July 10, heading toward the host city of Tokyo. 
The relay will mainly stay on land, using ships to cross the ocean.
 Fifteen days will be spent in Tokyo and three days each in the disaster-affected prefectures of Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate. 
Three days each will also be spent in Chiba, Saitama and Shizuoka prefectures, where more than one venue will be located during the Games, and two days each in the rest of the nation’s prefectures. 
 The specific route within prefectures will be decided by a local committee yet to be established, which will submit a prospective route to the 2020 Games organizing committee as early as this year. 
 The organizing committee is expected to draw up the entire route next spring to seek approval from the International Olympic Committee. 
The official route will be announced around summer 2019, one year before the Games kick off.
 Prior to the torch relay, the organizing committee will exhibit the Olympic flame brought from Athens in Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate prefectures as a symbol of reconstruction.
 Two locations were primarily considered for the relay’s starting point: Okinawa Prefecture, to follow the route of the 1964 Games; and a location hit by the 2011 earthquake.
 The decision to start in Fukushima reflects the intention to utilize the Games as a symbol of reconstruction.

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