Olympic torch relay kicks off in Fukushima

The Olympic flame has begun its journey across Japan, after a year-long delay caused by the global pandemic.
This relay will be unlike any before it, traveling through all 47 prefectures, but under tight anti-coronavirus measures.

It kicked off Thursday morning in the northeastern prefecture of Fukushima, which was devastated by the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident.

Officials at the departure ceremony said they hope to showcase the region's recovery and the people's will to overcome the pandemic.

Tokyo 2020 President Hashimoto Seiko said, "I hope the Olympic flame of the Tokyo Games will light up hopes around Japan one by one with its sacred, powerful and warm shine."

The flame was brought to Japan from Greece last March.

It was picked up by the relay's first runners -- members of Nadeshiko Japan. The national women's soccer team won the 2011 World Cup, soon after the disaster struck.

Some who were forced to evacuate their hometowns will carry the flame. That includes this man.

Endo Shu said, "I ran in the hopes of showing the world how much energy people in the disaster-hit areas have.

The runners passed through crowds of masked spectators who'd been asked to refrain from loudly cheering.

And they ended the day at a ceremony. Over the coming months, about 10,000 people plan to carry the torch. But more than 90 runners, including some high-profile people, have pulled out. Most made the decision because of scheduling changes. Others cited infection concerns.

The 121-day journey is scheduled to end at the national stadium in Tokyo on July 23, just in time for the Opening Ceremonies.