A truly special part of any Olympic Games is the gradual journey of the Olympic Torch around the host country. The Olympic Torch Relay brings the spirit of the games to corners of the country far beyond the main city of the games. That desire to share goodwill and bring people together seems to be alive and well in the plans for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay.
If you’re interested in seeing the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay while in Japan, this is all you need to know about this beloved staple of the Olympic Games. Even if you don’t end up getting tickets to the Tokyo Games, this will be a fun moment to share in.
Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay Symbolism
As with all things to do with the Olympic Games, there’s plenty of meaning and symbolism surrounding the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay. Organisers have chosen to adopt “Hope Lights Our Way” as a unifying them to bring Japanese people together. This theme flows through everything, including the relay course and the selection of torchbearers.
Then there’s the design of the Olympic Torch itself. The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch has been crafted upon a cherry blossom motif as the cherry blossom, or sakura, is the national flower of Japan. It’s no coincidence either that the Torch Relay will take place during cherry blossom season.
Somehow, there’s even more meaning to be found with the emblem for the Olympic Torch Relay. The colours of vermilion and yellow ochre have been chosen because of their traditional place in Japanese society, while their combination evokes a look quite common among Japanese festivals. Even more subtly, the design uses a ceremonial colouring technique called fuki bokashi, to reinforce its Japanese style.
Tokyo Olympic Torch Relay Route and Schedule
If you hope to see the Torch Relay in person, it will probably help if you know when and where it’s going to be. To fully appreciate the spectacle in all its glory, it also helps to understand the journey of the Tokyo Olympic Torch Relay Route from end to end.
Like each edition of the Olympics, the torch relay starts with the lighting of the torch in the Olympic flame at Olympia, Greece. From there, the torch is flown across the seas to Japan. Unlike some years where the relay route diverts through other international destinations, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay will go straight from Greece to Japan.
Upon touching down in Japan, the route will start in Fukushima and the Tohoku region, the area worst affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. From there on 26 March 2020, the Olympic Torch takes on a 121 day journey, passing through the 47 prefectures of Japan. Yes, it will cover the full length and breadth of the country, and even the islands of Okinawa will see the torch pass down its roads.
While the exact day-to-day route has not been finalised yet, there is a high-level route that has been shared publicly. The route has been designed so that 98% of Japan’s population will only have to travel at most one hour to see it. Check either the torch relay map or the torch relay schedule to see if the torch will be near you while you’re in Japan.
All of this comes to a point, when the Torch Relay ends at the Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony on Friday, 24th of July.
Tokyo Olympic Torch Relay Torchbearers
Another big part of the Olympic Torch Relay is who is chosen to run with the torch as a torchbearer. Tokyo’s Olympics organising body has decided that half of the roughly 10,000 torchbearers will be general members of the public. That should mean that there were will be around 80 to 90 torchbearers every day, covering about two minutes of the route each.
An announcement of who has been selected as torchbearers is said to happen sometime in December 2019. Unfortunately, we don’t know yet which athletes and public figures will be part of the relay as well. As is usual, no-one knows who will run the final leg and bring the torch into the stadium as it’s generally a highly guarded secret.
Special Display of the “Flame of Recovery”
Alongside the theme “Hope Lights Our Way” of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay and the starting point of Fukushima and the Tohoku region, organisers have decided to take their message of hope one step further. Seeing the Olympic flame as a symbol of hope and recovery, they will be holding special public displays of the Olympic flame in the Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima prefectures.
This way, residents and workers from these regions who have been through so much after the earthquake and tsunami can have a better chance to see this “Flame of Recovery” before it moves on.