The Tokyo Olympic torch relay began Thursday in Japan, one year after the event was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 121-day relay signals the start of the build-up to this summer’s Games, which were postponed from 2020 by coronavirus.

The rose-gold, cherry blossom-shaped Olympic torch was lit at the J-Village sports complex in Fukushima which served as a base for operations responding to the 2011 nuclear disaster.

Speaking at the launch ceremony, Tokyo 2020 Chief, Seiko Hashimoto expressed optimism that the Olympic flame would serve as a ray of light at the end of the darkness.

The torch was lit during a ceremony in Fukushima and will be carried by 10,000 runners across Japan before the lighting of the Olympic cauldron at the Games’ opening ceremony on 23 July.

The nationwide relay will be vdifferent from previous editions, with spectators banned from cheering and kept away from the launch and first leg over coronavirus concerns.

A small number of fans were allowed to watch the relay’s second section, but face masks were compulsory and cheering banned in an attempt to stop the spread of Covid-19.