JAKARTA – The Olympic flame-lighting ceremony for the 2020 Summer Games will take place on March 11 — the ninth anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the Tohoku region, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said Saturday.
“I think this is a wonderful idea,” Bach said in an interview in Jakarta. “The IOC has already accepted this idea, because from the very beginning the IOC has made a commitment that wherever possible we want to contribute to the reconstruction of the area.”
The Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee proposed the date, but Bach’s statement was the first public announcement to confirm the IOC’s support for holding the ceremony on the anniversary of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.
The Olympic flame has been kept alight in Olympia in western Greece since Nazi Germany introduced the idea of a torch relay for the 1936 Berlin Summer Games.
After the relay begins in Greece, the flame will be transported to Japan, where it will be displayed in Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi, the three prefectures most heavily damaged by the calamity, which also triggered a nuclear crisis and left more than 18,000 people dead or missing.
The Japan leg will begin in Fukushima on March 26 and travel around the country for 121 days.
A day before he attends the closing ceremony for the Asian Games, the largest multisport event in the world behind the Olympics, Bach said he plans to visit northeastern Japan in November to “show our solidarity with the people and to encourage the people in the region.”
Referring to Japan’s record-high temperatures this summer, Bach, 64, said he is confident that the IOC, working together with the Tokyo organizing committee, will be able to come up with the “right mixture of measures” to protect athletes and spectators during the Tokyo Olympics.