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Olympic flame lands in Japan as doubts grow over Tokyo Games


MATSUSHIMA AIR BASE, Japan (AP) — The Olympic flame on Friday achieved its complicated straggle from Greece to Japan.

That signified a small, symbolic victory for the IOC and local organizers, who maintain the Tokyo Olympics will begin on July 24 amid a refrain of doubters who deem they wants to be postponed or canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“For the first time in 56 years, the Olympic torch is heading to Tokyo and I’m hoping that the Olympic torch will illuminate the path of hope for many folks,” organizing committee President Yoshiro Mori said at a scaled-down arrival ceremony at an air base in northern Japan.

Mori needless to say was referring to Tokyo’s famous 1964 Olympics. Tokyo was also to have been the venue for the 1940 Olympics, which were cancelled by World War II.

“We can work closely with the International Olympic Committee, the Japanese authorities, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Authorities,” he said, and based on the World Health Organization’s advice, “we can be certain that a safe and stable games.”

The flame, carried in a tiny canister from Greece, reached Japan aboard a white aircraft painted with the inscription “Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay” along its facet. The tail allotment was adorned with the refrain “Hope Lights our Way.

The aircraft was welcomed on the tarmac by a small contingent of organizing committee officials. Two of Japan’s most famous Olympians — three-time wresting gold medalist Saori Yoshida and three-time judo gold medalist Tadahiro Nomura — purchased the flame for the lighting ceremony.

The 2 climbed portable stairs and entered the aircraft earlier than emerging holding the cradle-fancy canister with a flame burning inside. They handed it over at the base of the stairs to Mori, who delivered a temporary acceptance speech in a gusting wind.

Yoshida and Nomura then took the torch and ignited a large cauldron on the tarmac of the air base.

Mori referred to the “complicated situation” with the virus, and then thanked the IOC and Greek officials that the “hand-over ceremony was able to be held” with the Olympics place of dwelling to begin in moral over four months.

The flame arrived in the northeastern part of Japan, roughly 250 kilometers (150 miles) from Tokyo, that was devastated by the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and meltdown of three nuclear reactors that has left many silent living in temporary quarters.

The flame will stay in northern Japan for almost a week except the torch relay begins officially on March 26 from Fukushima prefecture. This may be put on public display in the three prefectures most affected by the disaster — Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima,

Even supposing the Olympics and Paralympics don’t start as scheduled, the burning flame may be archaic as a image and a rallying point for the Japanese public.

In a conference call on Wednesday, IOC President Thomas Bach obtained make stronger for holding direction, however is also getting push back from athletes who can’t train, are perplexed about the qualification process, and fear about their health. Critics are also complaining about the unfairness of qualifying, which may give some athletes advantages over others.

Worldwide the death toll surpassed 10,000 and infections topped 240,000, including 86,000 folks who have recovered. Japan has reported about 900 confirmed cases.

The Japanese news agency Kyodo released a seek on Monday showing 69.9% of those puzzled didn’t deem the Olympics will begin as scheduled because of the virus.

The four-month torch relay may be fraught with issues, particularly for sponsors which have invested hundreds of thousands for the publicity.

The torch relay in Greece, following the symbolic lighting on March 12, was stopped during the 2d day and didn’t resume because of large crowds. Japanese organizers have asked crowds to be “restrained” and may stop or delay the relay in the occasion that they are now not.

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