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Tokyo 2020 Olympic torch relay taking shape

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The Tokyo 2020 Olympic torch relay will visit all 47 prefectures of Japan with emphasis on the area affected by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

The torch relay, with the motto “Hope Lights Our Way,” will visit the three prefectures most affected by the tsunami and earthquake (Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi) 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.

The torch relay will also spend 15 days in the Tokyo metropolitan area with three days each in the four prefectures hosting multiple Olympic events (Chiba, Kanagawa, Saitama and Shizuoka).

It will spend two days each at the other 39 prefectures.

More torch relay details, including regarding the start of the relay in Olympia, Greece, will be announced later.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Ichiro: No plan for 2020 Tokyo Olympics

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Ichiro said he does not plan to play for Japan at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, according to The Athletic.

The 44-year-old noted that MLB players have historically not been in the Olympics and that he plans to still be playing for an MLB team in 2020, according to the report.

Ichiro’s comments agree with what he reportedly said in 2000, the last time he could have played in the Olympics, one year before debuting with the Seattle Mariners.

“As I said before, I’m not interested in the Olympics, and I don’t know what all the commotion is about,” he said in January 2000 at a temple in Kobe where his Japanese team went to pray for victory in the upcoming season, according to Kyodo News.

Baseball was an Olympic medal sport from 1992 through 2008 with no MLB participation. It was out of the Olympic program for 2012 and 2016 but is back in for 2020 only with the potential for future Games.

While it’s not official yet, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said last year that he “can’t imagine a situation” where MLB would take a break in its season to have its best players at the Olympics.

Japan made the semifinals of all five Olympic baseball tournaments but never took gold.

Ichiro did help Japan to World Baseball Classic titles in 2006 and 2009 before choosing not to play in 2013 (when Japan had zero MLB players on its WBC roster) and again not being on Japan’s team in 2017 (when Japan had one MLB player).

In 2020, Ichiro will be more than two years older than the oldest previous Olympic baseball player — South African Alan Phillips in 2000.

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Tokyo 2020 Olympic, Paralympic mascots futuristic digital characters

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TOKYO (AP) — The schoolchildren have had their say: A pair of futuristic digital characters will be the mascots for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.

Organizers unveiled the winning designs at a school in Tokyo on Wednesday.

A total of 205,755 classes at 16,769 elementary schools took part in selecting three short-listed designs, with their classes casting a single vote.

The winning pair, clad in the “ichimatsu” checkered pattern of the Games’ official logo, received 109,041 votes.

“The Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games finally have their mascots,” said Ryohei Miyata, head of the mascot selection panel. “This means a lot, especially in Japan. I cannot wait to see these two characters coming to life in the stadiums, on the streets and on TV.”

Organizers say the mascots combine tradition with innovation.

Their names will be decided by copywriters and other professionals and announced in July or August.

The selection process involving schoolchildren was introduced to get students enthusiastic about the games while also ensuring transparency.

The original official logo was hit with plagiarism allegations and scrapped.

The designer of the winning mascots is Ryo Taniguchi, who graduated as an art major from Cabrillo College in California, and is currently active as a character designer/illustrator. His work has been featured by companies and at exhibitions in Japan.

The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled for July 24-Aug. 9, 2020.

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