Athens, Mar 12 (efe-epa) .- The Olympic flame was lit in the ruins of Olympia on Thursday in a traditional ceremony that gives the torch to the first bearer and begins its journey through Greece to this year’s host Japan.
The event was marked by precautions against the coronavirus outbreak, with strict access measures and attendees limited to 100 by the Greece’s Hellenic Olympic Committee.
Among those present was the outgoing President of Greece Prokopios Pavlopoulos, who will leave office on Friday, and the president of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach.
Toshiaki Endo, special representative of the Japanese delegation, thanked the Greek government for the security measures at the event.
“The Olympic Torch Relay in Greece is the origin of so many wonderful episodes and stories, and I very much hope that the torch relay that begins today will engender many dreams and aspirations, and bring hope for tomorrow,” he added.
The Japanese emissary also made reference to the fight against climate change and said the Tokyo Games will be the first to meet the United Nations sustainable development goals.
He added that hydrogen produced in factories in Fukushima will be used along the route and to light the cauldron.
Bach praised the commitment shown by the host country and said in his speech: “Our Japanese friends are interpreting the noble mission of the Olympic Games in an outstanding way.
“Japan will demonstrate its ground-breaking innovation and boundless creative energy with regard to sustainability, technology and human-centred growth.”
Hellenic Olympic Committee President Spyros Capralos highlighted that for the first time the first bearer of the torch was a woman, Greek shooter Anna Korakaki.
Following the ceremony, the Olympic torch began its journey with the gold medallist.
She brought the flame to the monument to Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games, and then passed it to Japanese athlete Noguchi Mizuki, winner of the women’s marathon race at the Olympic Games Athens 2004.
The torch will take a week-long tour of Greece before continuing to the Japan leg of the relay which will begin on 26 March.
Around 10,000 torchbearers will carry it through all 47 prefectures, incorporating 859 local municipalities, for a period of 121 days, before it finally arrives in Tokyo for the opening ceremony.
The Games will symbolise the reconstruction of areas hit by the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, in which more than 18,000 people died.
Fukushima will host the inaugural event of the Olympic Games, with a softball match between Japan and Australia to be played there on 22 July.
Yoshiro Mori, president of the Japanese Olympic Committee, said this week that the cancellation or postponement of the Games due to coronavirus was “inconceivable”, despite the outbreak preventing several qualifying tournaments from taking place. EFE-EPA