Olympic torch relay kicking off

After a yearlong delay, the Olympic flame is starting its journey across Japan on Thursday. The torch relay will be carried out under tight anti-coronavirus measures through all 47 prefectures.

The relay is scheduled to start from the national training center, called J-Village, in Fukushima Prefecture. It was the base for dealing with the decontamination work of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Officials chose it as the starting site as they want to showcase the recovery effort after a massive earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster devastated the area a decade ago.

About 10,000 runners plan to carry the torch at various points.

Because of the pandemic, officials have asked local spectators not to crowd along the route or support the runners by cheering loudly.

Masks are also required, and people have been asked not to travel beyond prefectural borders.

Torchbearers are also asked to refrain from dining out with others two weeks prior to their participation.

Each runner will carry the torch about 200 meters on the route for about two minutes. Officials will also restrict the number of attendees at the ceremonial event when the relay ends for the day.

The relay has not been without controversy. Some runners withdrew in protest after the former organizing committee chief's comments that can be regarded as sexist last month.
Some celebrities have also canceled their attendance for other reasons.

The flame is scheduled to travel across the country for 121 days before finishing at the National Stadium in Tokyo -- just in time for the Opening Ceremonies on July 23.