Olympic flame shines in empty stadium as Tokyo marks one year until delayed games

Rikako Ikee holds the Olympic flame in a lantern in an empty stadium. Credit: AP

The famous Olympic flame shone in an empty stadium as Japan marked the day the now-postponed games were meant to kick off.

With exactly one year to go, pandemic-permitting, until Tokyo hosts the 29th Summer Olympics, Japan’s focus is firmly on the fight against Covid-19.

On Thursday, venues were lit up in Olympic colours as part of a low-key ceremony – one year after far more considerable fanfare greeted the one-year countdown.

This year’s event featured Japanese swimmer and leukaemia survivor Rikako Ikee, who called for the “power of hope” to keep the Olympics on track for July 23, 2021.

“For athletes around the world, and for all people who are encouraged by athletes, I hope the flame of hope will be shining a year later today,” she said, with torch in hand in the empty national stadium.

The muted celebration was in stark contrast to last year's show with fireworks cascading over Tokyo Bay.

The Ariake Arena, one of the venues of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. Credit: AP

In a clear indication of changed priorities, the ceremony this time round lasted only 15 minutes and ended with a video to promote next year's opening.

Tokyo's governor Yuriko Koike said the fight against the coronavirus is the main priority for the year ahead.

She made her comments as the Tokyo region confirmed a record 366 new coronavirus cases on Thursday.

Charley Davison opens up on Olympics delay

Charley Davison was on the cusp of qualifying for the Olympics in March, when her final boxing match had to be cancelled.

As well as keeping up her training for Tokyo, Charley has spent lockdown homeschooling her children.

Team GB athletes began preparing for the postponed games as soon as the delay was made official on March 24.

Just days after the announcement, gymnast and double Olympic champion Max Whitlock told ITV News he'd like to see the games bring the world together after what the everyone hopes will be the end of the pandemic.

“Hopefully, the Olympics, when it does come around, can kind of be a sign that the whole world can reunite again,” he said.