Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay: Interviews with torchbearers
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay took the form of torch-lighting ceremonies in celebration venues instead of running on public roads suspended. In the city of Hiroshima, the ceremony was held on Monday, May 17th at the Peace Memorial Park. We talked to four participants about why they participated in the ceremony and their expectations for the Olympics.
Kajiya Fumiaki (81 years old: Secretary General of the Association of Teachers Continuing to Speak about Hiroshima)
I am an atomic bomb survivor. When I was six years old, I was exposed to radiation and witnessed many people running away from the blast. Many people were lying dead on the roadside. Just now, I served as a torchbearer for the Olympic flame. The Olympic flame is fire, but a different type of fire from what I saw 76 years ago. That was the fire of hell. Today, I held the fire of peace. In taking part in this ceremony, my prayers are with the many people who did not survive the atomic bombs, and I pray that the peace we have now holds.
In addition to my work with the Association of Teachers Continuing to Speak about Hiroshima, I also testify about my experience at the Atomic Bomb Museum. I applied for this torch relay to tell the world that the use of nuclear weapons must end with Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is easy to forget during a stretch of peace, but the human race may face extinction if nuclear weapons are used again. As an atomic bomb survivor, it is my firm stand that a third use of nuclear weapons should never be allowed.
I know it’s a difficult situation, but I would like the Olympics to be held. The Olympics are important as a festival of peace that brings the world together. I think it’s important that the East and West gather to take part in one competition, regardless of what form it takes.
Nakatani Takehide (79 years old: Tokyo 1964 Olympic Judo Gold Medalist)
I didn’t expect much from being a torchbearer, but now I’m glad I came. While I waited for the flame of the torch to come to me, memories of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics flashed through my mind. I took part in those Games. I remembered the moment when the Japanese flag went up after I won the gold medal
I’m not an atomic bomb survivor, but when I was in the first grade of elementary school, I came to Hiroshima to see the city being rebuilt from the ashes. The Olympics are not only about sports. They are also a celebration of peace. I hope that this circle of peace will spread all over the world.
However, since I have experience as an athlete, I would like to see Japan not only host the Olympics, but also do well in them. I especially want the Judo team to do its best. I’m looking forward to medal-winning performances from all of the participants.
Osaki Momoka (15 years old: a track and field member of Saka Junior High School affected by the 2018 Western Japan floods)
I was chosen to be a torchbearer two years ago. Originally, the torch relay was supposed to take place a year ago from today. It was put off for a year, and I didn’t know if I would ever actually be able to run… In the end, I was able to run without problems, and I’m very glad for that.
I wanted to participate in the relay to give back to everyone in Saka. In July 2018, heavy rains in Western Japan caused severe damage in Saka. The inside of my house was spared from mud, but the neighboring park almost turned into a sea. It made me realize that the everyday life I had lived up until then was not something to be taken for granted.
After the flooding, many volunteers came to Saka, and some of them were from overseas. I was surprised and grateful to see people from other countries volunteering. With this run, I would like to help spread the message that Saka has been steadily moving forward since the disaster.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, there are probably a lot of Olympic competitors who haven’t been able to get enough practice. Nonetheless, I hope that the feelings of myself and the other torchbearers will reach them and help give them enough strength to achieve the best results possible.
Yamashita Sota (14 years old: a track and field member of Saka Junior High School affected by the 2018 Western Japan floods)
I was really nervous, but I’d like to give myself 100 points today. I think I was able to convey energy, courage and hope. Going into this today, I decided to do the relay with enthusiasm and a smile because I wanted to convey those things.
After the flooding in Western Japan, a teacher at my school told me about the torch relay. The heavy rain filled my house with mud and water. It was completely destroyed. That was hard to deal with, but when I was selected as a torchbearer, the people around me encouraged me to cheer up. That helped me change my outlook and start moving towards the future. By taking part in this event, I want to help spread the word about the progress the areas struck by the disaster have made in recovering.
Being able to experience the torch relay is an opportunity that only comes once in a lifetime, if at all. But if the Olympics comes to Japan again, I would like to run proudly through my hometown of Saka.
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