Japan Dismisses Coronavirus Concerns, Kicks off Summer Olympics Countdown in Tokyo

Japan's National Women's Football Team leads off the Torch Relay Ceremony in Japan. Photo: Tokyo2020.org

Japan’s National Women’s Football Team leads off the Torch Relay Ceremony in Japan. Photo: Tokyo2020.org

A year after the Tokyo, Japan Summer Olympics was postponed due to the global Coronavirus pandemic, they have kicked off a 4-month countdown with a torch relay today in Fukushima– an area ravaged in 2011 by an earthquake, tsunami, and a nuclear disaster.

The 10,000-man relay, which crosses the country and ends at the stadium for the opening ceremony 121 days from now, will mostly be viewed on screens. A small amount of spectators are allowed along the roadsides and cannot cheer, but clapping is permitted, as masks and social distancing guidelines are enforced. 

The Tokyo Summer Olympics was initially slated for July 24th, 2020, but last March was postponed for the first time ever. It has been rescheduled for this coming July, despite the usual concerns from healthcare workers and even some Olympic organizers. A poll showed that most Japanese citizens were not in favor of hosting the games due to concerns of COVID-19, which is responsible for about 9,000 deaths in the country.

“There was enthusiasm on the part of the people before the pandemic,” said Seiko Hashimoto, the Tokyo 2020 president and former Olympic speedskater and cyclist. “We should bring back this feeling and transform their concerns into anticipation.”

The brief torch ceremony had no crowds, and is a preview of what the atmosphere will be like at the games four months from now, where international spectators will not be permitted. 

“We will continue to do our utmost to deliver a safe and secure Games in the hopes that the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 will be a light of hope for people all over the world,” the Tokyo 2020 committee said in a statement

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