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  • Writer's picturePhillip Radcliffe

The Olympic Torch Relay

By Kyohei Yamato

(Japanese translation coming soon.)

The Tokyo Olympics, which were supposed to be held in 2020, will now be held in 2021 due to the coronavirus. Before the Olympics, there is a certain event that has always been held without fail. It is the Olympic Torch Relay.

The Olympic torch relay was the brainchild of Carl Diem, a sports scientist and Secretary General of the Berlin Organizing Committee for the 1936 Berlin Olympics (The Winter Games began in Oslo in 1952). The idea of transporting the torch from Greece to Berlin has the historical meaning of recreating the ancient Greek "torch race," which created a wonderful sense of cooperation beyond national borders, and an appeal to the artistic significance of the Olympics. However, on the flip side of the coin, it was also in line with Hitler's belief that the Germanic peoples were the heirs to Greece, the source of European civilization.

The torch for the Berlin Games will be lit from sunlight in front of the Temple of Hera at the ancient Olympic site using a concave mirror. With Konstantin Kondylis of Greece as the first runner, more than 3,000 runners have carried the torch northward through the Balkans, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and on to Berlin, Germany. This route took the same route of the German invasion in World War II.

Traditionally, the fire is lit at the site of the Temple of the Herer in Olympia a few months before the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. The torch is lit by eleven priestesses of Hestia, the goddess of the furnace, who holds the torch over a concave mirror that focuses the sun's rays to a single point.

Winter Olympics

The torch relay for the Winter Olympics began with the Oslo Olympics in 1952. The first torch relay was not in Olympia, but in the fireplace of the home of Sondre Norheim, a pioneer in the sport of skiing in Morgedal, Norway, where the torch was lit for the 1960 Skovalley Olympics and the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics.

Tokyo 2020 Torch Relay Route

The torch relay began in Fukushima Prefecture and headed south, where the Kanto region is located, excluding Tokyo and other major cities. After that, it continued southward along the Pacific Ocean side, from Osaka City to the Shikoku region. After traveling around the Shikoku region, it headed south from Oita Prefecture along the Pacific Ocean to Okinawa Prefecture. After that, it went right to the west side of Kyushu and headed for Yamaguchi Prefecture. From then on, it traveled north along the Sea of Japan side and came to Hokkaido.

The torch relay in Hokkaido was divided into two days, and the first day was held without spectators at Upopoi in the town of Shiraoi. The second day was held without an audience at Acapura in Sapporo City. After that, the event was held in an unhosted location in the Tohoku region and then headed to the Kanto area. Naomi Osaka was the final runner on the opening day of the Olympic Games, and she lit the torch on the torch stand at the New National Stadium.


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