The Olympic torch has had a lonely journey to the opening ceremony.
After arriving in Japan from Greece in March 2020, it was mothballed for a year as the pandemic delayed the Games.
Things only got worse from there. Even before the relay started, more than 30 runners, including a number of celebrities, had pulled out over concerns that they would be running with not only the flame but also the coronavirus.
Despite those concerns, the torch began its journey in March at a small, socially distanced ceremony in Fukushima, the site of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that led to a nuclear meltdown. The choice of location was intended to illustrate Japan’s recovery from the disaster, but the modest event was short on celebration.
At the time, Japan’s vaccination program had barely begun. Still, coronavirus cases counts were low, and, as members of the World Cup-winning Japanese women’s soccer team carried the torch on the first leg of its 121-day journey, there was a sense of cautious, albeit premature, optimism among the participants that the rest of the trip might go smoothly.
That was not to be. Within weeks, the country had entered a state of emergency. Spectators were asked to stay home, and the torch’s planned route experienced disruption after disruption as localities in 20 prefectures barred it from public roads.
When the flame finally arrived in Tokyo in early July, officials hustled it from venue to venue with a minimum of pageantry and no actual running, its journey across the city marked by a series of modest ceremonies.
It made its next-to-last stop earlier Friday at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, where the Tokyo governor, Yuriko Koike, presided over a small celebration of its trip.