The Tokyo Olympic torch relay began in Olympia, Greece, on Thursday at the traditional Olympic Flame lighting ceremony, held with limited attendance due to coronavirus concerns.
“We are especially grateful that you made today’s ceremony possible, even under difficult circumstances,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a speech, thanking the Greek Olympic Committee president at the site of the Ancient Olympics. “This demonstrates once more our commitment to the success of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Nineteen weeks before the Opening Ceremony, we are strengthened in this commitment by the many authorities and sports organizations around the world who are taking so many significant measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus.”
On Monday, it was announced that the lighting ceremony would be held without spectators and attended by a limited, 100 accredited guests from the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo 2020.
The ceremony was capped by Greek Olympic shooting champion Anna Korakaki becoming the first woman to be the first torchbearer of an Olympic torch relay, which was first held for the 1936 Berlin Games.
Korakaki, a Rio gold medalist already qualified for the Tokyo Games, then passed the flame to Japan’s 2004 Olympic marathon champion Mizuki Noguchi.
The Olympic Flame will spend eight days in Greece before being flown to Japan for a 121-day trek through the country leading up to the July 24 Opening Ceremony cauldron lighting.
The Japanese part of the relay begins in the tsunami-affected prefecture of Fukushima, with the first torchbearers being members of the 2011 Women’s World Cup champion team.
“Given the unprecedent circumstances the world is facing, the health and safety of the thousands of torchbearers, spectators and staff will be the first priority along the route of the Olympic Torch Relay both in Greece and Japan,” the IOC said in a press release.
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