Games torch travels on Tokyo public roads for 1st time

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A runner participates in the first torch relay along public roads in Tokyo, on Miyakejima island on Thursday.

The torch relay for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games traveled along public roads in the capital for the first time on Thursday, as it was carried on Miyakejima island of the Izu Islands chain.

This is the first torch relay ever to involve the Izu Islands, which are under Tokyo’s jurisdiction. The flame did not travel to any of the Tokyo islands at the time of the 1964 Games.

Miyakejima island was the starting point of the island relay, and residents lined the roadside at spaced intervals to watch the torch pass. At around 10:15 a.m., the first runner raised the torch and began their leg. Ultimately, five runners passed the torch among them on the island while waving to onlookers.

Traditional taiko drums from Miyakejima were played at the finish line.

The final runner was Rio Yamamoto, 14, a second-year junior high school student. Yamamoto said with a smile, “I was really honored to be able to run in front of the people who cheered me on, even though the relay was canceled on public roads in many places.”

The torch was to travel along public roads on five islands on Thursday, including Kozushima and Niijima. However, the event on Izu Oshima island was canceled due to the spread of the novel coronavirus.

As an alternative, a ceremony called a “torch kiss” was to be held in which torchbearers pass the flame by touching torches together. The Ogasawara Islands, Hachijojima and other islands were to see the torch pass along public roads there on Friday.

The torch relay started in Fukushima Prefecture on March 25, and traveled through 46 prefectures over about 3½ months. The Tokyo leg began July 9, but plans for the torch to pass along public roads were canceled everywhere except for the islands.