Olympic Torch Relay starts in Japan

The torch relay for the Tokyo Olympics is finally under way. The 2020 Summer Games were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic but organizers have been determined to ensure they go ahead in July. Members of the Japan women's football team ran as torchbearers in the first leg of the relay on Thursday. It began in Fukushima Prefecture, which was devastated by the triple disasters of the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown. The relay torch is made of aluminium recycled from prefabricated housing built for survivors of the triple calamity. Fukushima was chosen as the start of the relay to show the area has recovered, although many people say claims of recovery are a little premature.

The head of Japan's Olympic organizing committee, Seiko Hashimoto, opened the torch relay ceremony. She said in her opening address: "The flame will embark on a 121-day journey and will carry the hopes of the Japanese people and wishes for peace." Japanese people are being encouraged to look at live broadcasts of the relay and refrain from travelling to watch it amid fears of a spike in COVID 19 cases. Spectators must wear face masks, and are being urged to clap rather than cheer. Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga reiterated his commitment to stage a "safe and secure" Olympics in spite of the pandemic. He said: "We will do our utmost on coronavirus measures."