Flame in full bloom on first day of Olympic Torch Relay

Azusa Iwashimizu and members of Nadeshiko Japan, Japan’s women’s national soccer team, lead the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay. (Photo by Kim Kyung-Hoon – Pool/Getty Images)

The Grand Start of the Olympic Torch Relay in Fukushima on Thursday 25 March brought with it a sense of new beginnings and the promise of springtime, as the Olympic Flame began its long journey across Japan before it sparks the cauldron at the Olympic Stadium at the climax of the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo Olympic Games on 23 July 2021.

With the arrival of spring comes the promise of new life.

And after the hardships of winter – both real and metaphorical – the Grand Start of the Olympic Torch Relay on Thursday 25 March was awash in flowers and welcome bloom as the residents of Japan called out to the world, a year later than expected due to a postponement caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, a message of warmth and opening.

The ceremony marked the start of the Olympic Torch Relay that leads the way up to the Opening Ceremony (on 23 July 2021) of this summer’s Olympic Games. The event was smaller than originally planned, but it met the moment with a subtle flourish. A spirit of sharing was alive on a hazy morning in Fukushima as it will be, surely, over the course of the next 121 days while the torch, lit by the rays of the sun at the Temple of Hera in Greece, makes its way, deliberately and purposefully, toward the cauldron of the Tokyo Olympic Stadium. There it will preside from its perch over the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Fukushima Prefecture was the perfect venue for the torch to begin its four-month journey to Tokyo. The area was devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011 and the effects of the ensuing tsunami and nuclear disaster are still felt there to this day. The city, though, has become a symbol of hardship and resilience. Of tragedy and triumph.

“I feel like it’s all finally underway,” enthused Hashimoto Seiko, President of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee. “It so happens these Games were postponed and as a result, overlapped with the 10-year anniversary of the earthquake. I couldn’t be more grateful if we got through the 121 days in one piece.”