The Olympic flame completed its difficult journey from Greece to Japan on Friday. That signified a small, symbolic victory for the IOC and local organizers, who maintain the Tokyo Olympics will open on July 24 amid a chorus of doubters who believe they should be postponed or canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, the AP reports. "For the first time in 56 years, the Olympic torch is heading to Tokyo and I hope that the Olympic torch will illuminate the path of hope for many people,” organizing committee President Yoshiro Mori said at a scaled-down arrival ceremony at an air base in northern Japan. "We will work closely with the International Olympic Committee, the Japanese government, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government," he said, and based on the World Health Organization's advice, “we will ensure a safe and secure games."
The flame, carried in a tiny canister from Greece, reached Japan aboard a white aircraft painted with the inscription “Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay” along its side. The tail section was adorned with the refrain "Hope Lights our Way." The aircraft was welcomed on the tarmac by a small contingent of organizing committee officials. Two of Japan's most famous Olympians—three-time wresting gold medalist Saori Yoshida and three-time judo gold medalist Tadahiro Nomura—received the flame for the lighting ceremony. The flame will stay in northern Japan for almost a week until the torch relay begins officially on March 26 from Fukushima prefecture. It will be put on public display in the three prefectures most affected by the 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown. (Japan's deputy PM says the Olympics are "cursed.")