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Ready, set, Nishigo! An Olympic Torch from Fukushima With Dreams of Tokyo 2020

Did you know? A company in Nishigo village is developing an Olympic torch in the hopes it will be used in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic torch relay.
The use of an Olympic torch developed in the area affected by the 2011 earthquake in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic torch relay, will not only send a powerful message highlighting Fukushima’s recovery from the earthquake, but it will also create a positive topic of conversation for the affected areas.

The Olympic torch in use
Image: The Olympic torch in use

The Olympic torch is being developed by Nippon Koki Co., Ltd. whose development center is located at the Shirakawa plant in Nishigo village. The company has developed Olympic torches not only for the Tokyo 1964 Olympic torch relay, but also the 1972 Sapporo and 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympic Games. On a more recent note, a torch produced by the company will also be used in the Olympic torch relay at the 2017 Asian Winter Games in Sapporo.

If the torch is selected for the Tokyo 2020 Games, it will be the second time a torch developed by Nippon Koki has been used in the Tokyo Olympic torch relay.
The company previously developed a torch for the Tokyo 1964 Olympics designed to be “inextinguishable by wind or by rain” with “flowing white smoke.” The torch was a resounding success, and was ultimately selected for use.
As the number of covered sports venues is much higher today than in 1964, Nippon Koki is developing a smokeless torch in addition to a more traditional smoke-producing torch.

The Olympic torch used in the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games
The Olympic torch used in the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games

Like many other companies based in Fukushima, the Shirakawa plant‘s production facility was greatly damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake, and was forced to temporarily suspend operations. However, the company bounced back from adversity, and has continued on a steady path towards recovery since then, to the extent that a collision device (designed to form an artificial crater on an asteroid surface) produced by the company was installed on the Hayabusa2 asteroid probe launched in December 2014.

If the Olympic torch developed by Nippon Koki at the Shirakawa plant is used in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which have been pledged to become an “Olympics of recovery”, it would be the perfect opportunity to show the world Fukushima’s progress towards recovery.

A proposal to include a stretch of the areas affected the 2011 Earthquake in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic torch relay route, scheduled to be announced in 2019, has also been put forward. If a torch developed in Fukushima prefecture were to tour the disaster areas as part of the Olympic torch relay, it would be a very inspiring event not only for Fukushima, but for the entire area including Iwate and Miyagi prefectures.
Although the final decision as to which torch and route gets chosen for the Olympic torch relay will be made by the Organizing Committee, as a resident of Fukushima, I still hope to see the Fukushima torch play a role in the festivities of a high-profile sport during the Olympics.

Incidentally, a replica of the Olympic torch is currently (as of February 2017) on display on the 2nd floor of the west wing of the prefectural offices, so come a take a look if you’re ever passing by.

The Olympic torch replica on display on the 2nd floor of the west wing of the prefectural offices.
The Olympic torch replica on display on the 2nd floor of the west wing of the prefectural offices.

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