Tokyo 2020 use relay to re-inspire region devastated by 2011 earthquake and tsunami

Friday, 08 August 2014
By Nick Butler

The 800 participants in the relay arriving at the finish line in Tokyo ©Tokyo 2020/Shugo TakemiTokyo 2020's commitment to using the power and the values of sport to re-inspire disaster-affected areas has been showcased by the completion of a 1,000 kilometre relay through a region affected by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

The relay, organised by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, attracted 800 participants including some of Japan's foremost sporting names.

It consisted of 439km of running, with the remainder made up of a 795km cycling course.

The relay began in the city of Aomori, located in the northern part of the Tohoku region, on July 24, the same day the Tokyo Olympic Games Opening Ceremony will take place in six years' time, before it made its way through the three prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima, which were the most severely affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

It then arrived in Tokyo, where the runners were welcomed to the Tokyo Bay area - the finish line of the race - by Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe and hundreds of fans.

The relay is designed to aid Japan's recovery from the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck in 2011, and caused almost 16,000 deaths ©Getty ImagesThe relay is designed to aid Japan's recovery from the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck in 2011, and caused almost 16,000 deaths ©Getty Images





It is being billed as the latest in a long line of activities involving athletes visiting the disaster-affected areas, interacting with the local children, and "helping to bring smiles back to their faces".

Among those participating was the Sydney 2000 marathon gold medallist Naoko Takahashi, Vancouver 2010 speed skating bronze medallist Joji Kato, London 2012 table tennis silver medallist Kasumi Ishikawa and Athens 2004 Paralympics wheelchair tennis champion Shingo Kunieda.

"The immense hardships suffered by the people in the disaster-affected areas and the amazing support for the recovery and reconstruction efforts acted as a source of inspiration," said Takahashi, a former world record holder who also won the Berlin Marathon in 2001 and 2002.

"They drove me on along the long 1,000km course."

Sydney 2000 marathon champion Naoko Takahashi was one of the participants in the relay ©Getty ImagesSydney 2000 marathon champion Naoko Takahashi was one of the participants in the relay ©Getty Images



Kato, also the 2005 500 metres speed skating world champion, added: "I took part in the relay in the hope that it might contribute in some small way to inspiring and revitalising the local communities.

"If running can play a role in the reconstruction efforts, I would run forever!"

The relay marks a latest example of the Games being used to encourage sporting participation and wider development in Japan.

Last month, as part of the "Creating Tomorrow Together" project, Tokyo 2020 sports director Koji Murofushi visited an elementary school to collect ideas from youngsters with a view to further refining the existing vision for the Games. 
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