Three-time Olympic gold medallists Tadahiro Nomura and Saori Yoshida will help deliver the Olympic Flame from Greece to Japan in Miyagi Prefecture on 20 March next year, Tokyo 2020 announced on Friday.
The Olympic Flame will be lit in Ancient Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games, on 12 March to kick off a week-long relay through Greece.
A handover ceremony of the Flame will be held at Athens’ Panathenaic Stadium on 19 March before a specially-designed aircraft carries the Flame to Matsushima Air Base in Miyagi – a site devastated by the earthquake and tsunami on 11 March, 2011.
Nomura and Yoshida will escort the Flame from the handover ceremony to an elaborate arrival at Matsushima Air Base, where children from Ishinomaki, Higashi-Matsushima and Onagawa in Miyagi will attend.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay, which will pass through some of the worst-hit disaster areas of the 2011 quake that levelled the eastern coastline of Japan, starts on 26 March.
“I was shocked and happy at the same time to learn of the appointment”, said Nomura, who won three Olympic golds in men’s judo.
“Just thinking about how people will react when we bring the Olympic Flame gets me excited”. - Three-time Olympic judo champion Tadahiro Nomura
Both Nomura and Yoshida, the dominant women’s wrestler of her time with three Olympic and 13 consecutive world titles, topped the podium at Athens 2004 and were looking forward to what will be an unforgettable return to Greece.
Nomura and Yoshida will deplane from the aircraft with the lantern casing the Flame, setting it on Japanese soil for the first time.
“I’m thrilled I’ll have an opportunity to be a part of this historic moment,” Yoshida said. “It was from the Athens Olympics in 2004 that women’s wresting became a part of the Games.
“I managed to win a gold medal there and it’s an absolute honour to help move the torch from a country that is so memorable to me.” - Saori Yoshida.
The concept of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay is “Hope Lights Our Way”. After the Flame touches down in Miyagi, it will also be displayed in Iwate and Fukushima Prefectures from 20-25 March ahead of the actual torch relay.
The relay will last 121 days and run through all 47 prefectures of Japan.