Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay gets underway

FUKASHIMA, Japan. — Yesterday, one year after originally intended, the Torch Relay for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games began. This relay has four months to reach its end which will coincide with the Tokyo 2020 Opening Ceremony. The flame is the continuation of the one and only flame ignited in a traditional ceremony in Greece. Great detail by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) goes in to never letting the literal and symbolic flame go out. After Tokyo, the flame will be returned to Greece where it will begin the next similar  journey for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games. 

Beijing 2008 coincidentally, was the last time the flame circumnavigated the globe in what was up until that point in the modern era Games the International Torch Relay. Controversy over human rights squelched that and ever since, the flame has merely traveled throughout and within the borders of each individual host nation. The flame had it’s hayday, from nautical to aeronautical, traveling up into space in elaborately technological contraptions in rockets as well to the bottom of the sea in submarines. On the surface of the earth it’s been carried on big ships and small boats, wheelchairs and walkers and every imaginable locally culturally traditional mode of transportation.

It’s relayed in the run-up to the Summer and Winter Olympic Games and for the immediately following Paralympic Games. Obvious national VIPs and nominated stand out community members are bestowed the privilege of participation where they jog or ambulate to their ergonomic efficiency about a mile at which point the flame is transferred under the guidance of Torch Relay personnel and so on and so forth.

In Park City, in 2001-2002, the flame’s deeper meaning was as palpable as it is this COVID year. The IOC had made the conscious decision to continue its plans to put on the Salt Lake 2002 Winter Olympic Games after the attacks on 9/11 thus symbolizing a hope of a different nature but a hope none-the-less.  Homes and offices in all corners of Utah proudly the torches carried and kept. Park City locals and countless visitors have photographs of themselves holding a 2002 torch, photographs that can be taken still today at the  Alf Engen Ski Museum.

It may have a diminished trajectory but not a diminished capacity. The Torch relay has always been and remains all-at-once an invitation and a thank you. It serves as an invitation to the world to watch and a thank you to the local people who put their Herculean energy into bringing the event to fruition. It’s free to experience, it’s for all ages and generations and perseveres in all weather. It strings through all socio-economic and historically-political neighborhoods. It’s a moment in time that’s being live streamed here, socially distanced and masked. Olympic torch relays are nexus of preparation and anticipation.

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