Iwashimizu Azusa, a 2011 World Cup champion soccer player, led her teammates as the first torchbearer of the Japanese leg of the Tokyo Olympic torch relay.
The relay leg began Thursday in Fukushima (Wednesday evening in the U.S.), site of a 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The relay restart, after the Olympics were postponed by one year, was held at the J-Village National Training Center, a symbol of recovery in Fukushima after more than 18,000 people died after the March 11, 2011 natural disaster.
The torch relay, with the motto “Hope Lights Our Way,” will last 121 days, through the July 23 Opening Ceremony. The Olympic Flame will visit all 47 prefectures of Japan — 98% of the population lives within one hour of the route by car or train.
The torch relay began March 12, 2020 at the ancient Olympic site of Olympia, Greece. The Greek portion of the relay, originally scheduled for eight days, was called off a day later due to the coronavirus pandemic after actor Gerard Butler was among the torchbearers in Sparta.
The flame remained in Greece until it was flown to Japan as scheduled on March 20, 2020.
On March 24, 2020, it was announced the Tokyo Games were postponed to 2021. The Japan portion of the torch relay was suspended, too, two days before it was to start in Fukushima.
Fukushima will also host the first competition of the Tokyo Olympics — group-stage softball games two days before the Opening Ceremony.
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