The celebration cauldron is lit on the first day of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic torch relay in Naraha, Fukushima prefecture, Japan March 25, 2021. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/Pool FUKUSHIMA/TOKYO – The Olympic torch relay set off from Fukushima on Thursday, beginning a four-month countdown to the summer Games in Tokyo, delayed from 2020 and the first ever organised during a global pandemic. About 10,000 runners will carry the torch across Japan's 47 prefectures and far-flung islands, starting from the site of the 2011 quake and tsunami that killed about 20,000 people and sent tens of thousands fleeing radioactive plumes. The first section of the relay did not have spectators, to prevent large crowds, and roadside onlookers elsewhere must wear masks and socially distance as Japan battles the deadly virus and scrambles to vaccinate its people. "For the past year, as the entire world underwent a difficult period, the Olympic flame was kept alive quietly but powerfully," Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto said at the opening ceremony. "The small flame did not lose hope, and just like the cherry blossom buds that are ready to bloom, it was waiting for this day," Hashimoto said. Casting a pall over the celebrations, North Korea launched… Read full this story
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