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TOKYO, March 25 (Reuters) - The Olympic torch relay set off on Thursday from a soccer training centre in Naraha town, near the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant, beginning a four-month countdown to the Games in Tokyo, delayed from 2020 because of the coronavirus.
Following are some reactions to the relay start.
TAKAMITSU YOSHINO, 60, TOWN OFFICIAL:
“I hope it will be a light of hope. The situation of this town has changed dramatically so I hope we can build a new town with the torch flame.”
TAKUMI ITO, 31, RESIDENT:
“This is where I was born and raised, and I never thought a torch relay would be held here,” he said.
“We’re still under the COVID pandemic but I think it’s great we were able to hold the relay.”
MIKA UENO, 44, RELAY SPECTATOR:
“I would like to enjoy the atmosphere to its fullest but we couldn’t even see the starting ceremony on site because it was held without spectators,” she said, referring to an opening ceremony that was not open to the public.
“Major events like this rarely happen in our lifetimes. I’ll probably not have another chance.”
SEIKO HASHIMOTO, PRESIDENT OF TOKYO 2020 ORGANISING COMMITTEE:
“For the past year as the entire world underwent a difficult period, the Olympic flame was kept alive quietly but powerfully. The small flame did not lose hope and just like the cherry blossom buds that are ready to bloom, it was waiting for this day.”
YURIKO KOIKE, TOKYO GOVERNOR:
“I believe that the torch relay, which is starting now, through the cooperation of the people of Japan will safely travel around the country leading to the Olympics, a road of hope that pushes recovery into a higher gear and becomes a step towards a sustainable recovery from the pandemic.”
MASAO UCHIBORI, GOVERNOR OF FUKUSHIMA PREFECTURE:
“Ten years have passed since the Great East Japan Disaster and the nuclear accident, and Fukushima’s recovery is going steadily. However there are still many people who cannot return to their homes, and many difficult issues such as reviving these areas, rebuilding the lives of their residents, and the still persistent rumours. So you can say our recovery is still incomplete.”
A PROTESTOR WITH LOUDSPEAKER, DRIVING BY THE RELAY ROUTE:
“You have to be joking! Everyone knows we can’t have the Olympics.”
Reporting by Akira Tomoshige, Kiyoshi Takenaka, Elaine Lies, Mari Saito, Ju-min Park and Issei Kato; editing by Richard Pullin