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Olympic torch to pass through Japan’s disaster-hit areas

 TOKYO, June 1: The 2020 Tokyo Olympic torch relay will commence on March 26 in disaster-hit Fukushima and pass through other areas in north-east Japan devastated by the 2011 tsunami, organisers said on Saturday.

The Olympic flame will begin its journey around Japan at the J-Village sports training centre in Fukushima that housed workers battling to remove radioactive waste after the nuclear crisis triggered by the killer tsunami.

It will then cross all of Japan’s 47 prefectures, travelling to 857 municipalities, and pass by many iconic landmarks over a period of 121 days.

Around 98 percent of Japan’s population live within one hour by car or train of the proposed route, Tokyo organisers added. The torch relay will take in World Heritage sites such as Mt Fuji and the Miyajima shrine in Hiroshima prefecture famous for its “floating” gate.

It will also visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, dedicated to the victims of the world’s first atomic bombing in 1945, before arriving at Tokyo’s new Olympic stadium to cap the opening ceremony on July 24.

More than 18,000 people were killed or went missing after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake caused a massive tsunami that smashed into Japan’s northern Tohoku region and led to the meltdown of three reactors at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

The fallout from the world’s worst nuclear accident in 25 years forced more than 470,000 people to be evacuated.

Tokyo beat Madrid and Istanbul in the race to host the 2020 Olympics, including the reconstruction of disaster-hit areas in its candidature file. – AFP

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